Companies ‘pulling out’ of government work experience scheme were never in
Fri, 24 Feb 2012
Despite widespread reports of high-street names taking part in a mass exodus from the government’s controversial work experience scheme, Recruiter can confirm that some were never officially involved in the first place.
A spokesperson for bookseller Waterstones tells Recruiter that it has “never as a company been part of one of these schemes, so we’ve not withdrawn because we were never part of it”.
The spokesperson says that following an investigation, it “believes” that there was only ever one person in one store working for the company through the scheme and that it “won’t happen again”.
Waterstones has never been asked to join the scheme officially, the spokesperson adds, concluding that “as a company we don’t believe people should be working for no pay”.
Similarly, a statement posted on the website of supermarket Sainsbury’s yesterday [23 February] notes that the firm has “never entered into or endorsed any official partnership with the company or the work experience programme”, and that it was individual stores, which have since been instructed not to participate, who accepted the approaches of representatives of the scheme.
Sainsbury’s adds that their policy of not engaging with the scheme “goes back to their first approach to us in November 2009”.
Meanwhile retailer Poundland, whose involvement in the scheme saw it take on graduate Cait Reilly, who has since sued the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for being subjected to “forced labour”, as reported by recruiter.co.uk, tells Recruiter it is no longer part of the “mandatory” Work Programme.
Instead, it continues to take part just in the voluntary scheme, whereby people do not lose their benefits if they opt out of participation, saying it “has always had much better experiences” with those who are there voluntarily.
Tesco this week also reorganised its involvement in the scheme, giving participants a choice to work to “protect their benefits” or for wage.
The chief executive of bakery outlets Greggs, Ken McMeikan, yesterday told the BBC that he was uncomfortable with young people losing their benefits if they leave the initiative.
A spokesperson for Greggs tells Recruiter that it began the scheme last June, and has offered 45 placements – 29 of these completed (the rest left the placement) – and has seen 14 people secure jobs “as a result” of the scheme – 11 at Greggs and three outside the company.
As reported by recruiter.co.uk last month, academics at the University of Oxford and The Work Foundation fear that proposals that force those receiving benefits to work for it may actually increase poverty and jeopardise the job security of those already in work.
Furthermore, Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), adds: “In the current labour market, experience of the working world is the single most important aspect employers look for when recruiting.
“Employers have responsibilities to provide good quality schemes that boost employability and young people need to commit to placements and attend regularly if they are to get any value out of them.”