February 24, 2012 · Politics Etc...

The latest company to pull out of the “voluntary” Work Experience programme is Burger King UK. I suppose it’s tempting to say that when a fast food company decides a scheme is a mistake then it must be really bad. However, although burger bars tend to have a reputation for quite a high staff turnover, I know all the big chains would like (at least) to keep hold of people for longer if possible. They are very image conscious and someone who’s been there for a long time is more likely to be loyal to the company than someone who’s just there for a month or so. Someone more experienced can look after new staff, deal with awkward customers, and advise the supervisors and managers when something goes amiss like stock running low. If they’re trustworthy enough you could even get them to do things like locking up the store at the end of the day or dealing with the money. Food service is a very heavily regulated public-facing jobs around, where a slight mistake can mean the place gets shut down and prosecuted by environmental health or the HSE.

Anyway, it’s easy to criticise the Work Experience programme, but not as easy to suggest how you might get people off unemployment benefits and into proper jobs. Make-work schemes like the original US New Deal are expensive and there’s no chance of them being reintroduced these days. What would I do then? First of all, to make sure people at least try to get qualifications, I’d make payment of benefits to under 18s conditional on taking GCSEs unless they have a good reason for not doing so. Whether they pass with 9 A*s or fail with just one G grade is unimportant as long as they’ve been in the exam room and had a go at taking the paper. At least the introduction of modular GCSEs and continuous assessment mean it’s harder to disappear a couple of weeks before the final exams and leave with no qualifications at all.

After 6 months

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