While the Government’s ‘Get Britain Working’ scheme has caused controversy in some sectors where it has been accused of creating “slave labour”, one UK IT entrepreneur says that it could secure greater success if it was applied to more small and medium-sized businesses.
The scheme was introduced in order to provide 18-24 year-olds who have been unemployed for 3 months or more with the relevant work experience that could help them get their first job, or simply help them get back into employment. The scheme’s 4-week work placements are unpaid, but those who sign up for them can still claim jobseeker benefits and employers will often offer to help cover transport and childcare costs.
In spite of this, criticism has been levelled at the scheme because its detractors believe that the participating companies (such as big supermarkets and consumer goods stores) are exploiting a source of extremely cheap labour whereas the workers on the scheme don’t get enough work experience that is relevant to their desired profession.
Gary David Smith, co-founder of Prism IT solutions, believes that the scheme could be more useful to jobseekers if it was applied to more SMEs, rather than larger corporate entities.
He said: “SME’s have always been targeted by individuals seeking work experience because the student stands a far greater chance of actually getting to speak to the decision maker. Work experience in an SME is more likely to involve shadowing someone who completes more than one function, so the ‘free labour’ criticism just doesn’t stack up in the SME community.”
“Some SME’s can feel that employment legislation is stacked against them. Employer confidence will play a big part in creating new jobs and work placements allow an employer to get a real ‘feel’ for a potential employee – far more so than a simple interview.”
SMEs like Prism are responsible for creating a significant proportion of the rising number of available IT jobs in UK-based companies. Mr Smith believes that businesses such as his can help lift the perception of the ‘Get Britain Working’ scheme and help more young people find the career path that is right for them.
More advanced employment paths, ones that lead to advanced careers such as project management and IT manager jobs, often require that vital initial burst of work experience in order for to create a CV strong enough to secure an interview with a decision maker. In this case, IT SMEs would provide both the experience and often the opportunity to speak directly with the decision maker who has seen their handiwork first hand.
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