Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

Work experience? Well, every little helps ...

By Lindy McDowell

Published 01/03/2012

Are firms like Tesco and Poundland, which offer young jobseekers work experience, providing invaluable help to the youthful unemployed?

Or taking a hand out of them?

The way the scheme operates is that you volunteer to work with the firm for several weeks while continuing to draw your benefits.

If you chuck it in before the first week is up however, you lose those benefits.

And the firms don't pay you - hence the claims by critics that they are operating a slave labour programme.

As many as half of those who have taken part so far, however, are reported to have already found jobs.

Good thing or bad thing then?

I'm not usually on the side of big business but this time I'd say positive.

As anybody (or the parent of anybody) looking for a first job will already know, the killer question in just about every job application form is the one about previous experience.

They want you to have previous experience before you can get a job. But you can't get the 'previous experience' because you can't get a job.

This scheme at least provides some experience.

And from a future employer's point of view, even if that experience isn't particularly relevant, it does show determination and willingness to work, attributes which have to be way up the scale of any boss's requirement list.

We've had the predictable oul' snobbery about the nature of the jobs on offer - they're "only shelf stacking" we're told. But a job's a job.

It gets you out of the house. It gives you purpose.

And if it gives you a foot up on to the employment ladder so much the better.

And then there's the aspect which doesn't prompt a whole lot of debate but should - isn't it a good thing, too, that big business is being encouraged to demonstrate some sort of social conscience and couldn't this be developed further?

Above all, in a world where little children in other countries labour for a pittance to provide us with some of the consumer goods we see as our right, isn't it shameful that we refer to a shift in a supermarket as slave labour?

It isn't.

It isn't anywhere near.

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