Construction employers are increasingly turning to work experience as a way of finding the right person for the job, taking much of the risk and cost out of recruitment.
When you take someone on for work experience you're not only building them up, you're building your company up too. It can be a shortcut to finding the people your business needs to grow in future and builds strong links with the community.
What is work experience?
When you take someone on for work experience you're agreeing to get them involved in the type of work they might be doing as an employee. It's very flexible and you don't just have to put them in site jobs. You might decide to put them in an office position, send them off-site or a mix.
Work experience lets people get a feel for construction while you get to see how they perform. It's usually done by younger people like students and school leavers but others might try it if they're thinking about changing careers.
How can work experience help your business?
It makes hiring easier
You see if someone is right for the job quickly. You can even try out several people at the same time. This can be a lot less time consuming and expensive than hiring someone who turns out to be a bad fit.
It develops your staff
Managing people in a safe way on work experience can help your employees build their leadership skills. This can help get them ready for supervising jobs without expensive training. If your work experience person is under 16, although not essential, some staff may require a Disclosure and Barring Service check dependent on supervision arrangements.
It builds goodwill
Construction projects make a big impact when they start in a community. They can boost the local economy but they can upset some residents too. If you promote work experience, it can build goodwill during a project. This can also help with landing future contracts.
It's not always clear where to find people for work experience. Schools, colleges and universities have different ways of working and it can be difficult to reach the right people at the right time.
Skills Development Scotland, The National Careers Service network of career advisers in England and in Wales, Careers Wales are there to help you get around these problems. Contact them directly for more information.
A Traineeship is an education and training programme with work experience that is focused on giving young people the skills and experience employers are looking for. Further information can be found by reading the Employer Guide to Traineeships.
Work experience myths
There are some common myths about work experience that might stop you from trying it out:
They're too much of a health and safety hassle
It's not as daunting as you might think. Normally you won't even have to amend your existing risk assessments, although there are some scenarios in which you will. There is plenty of support to do so from the provider, the Health & Safety Executive or the Government’s own downloadable guide to work experience.
It's a drain on time and resources
The person on work experience will probably need some supervision from experienced employees. You can make the most of this by using it as career development for budding managers or supervisors. If your work experience candidate is under 16, you will need the staff supervising them to have a Disclosure and Barring Service check.
There's too much red tape
There's less to deal with for work experience than taking on a new employee. You'll still have to make sure that the workplace is safe like you would for anybody. GOV.uk has a handy guide, Not just making tea....(pdf) that makes the process simple for employers.
You'll need special insurance
If you already have Employer's Liability insurance then in most circumstances you should already be covered. You'll usually just have to tell your insurer if they'll be doing unusual tasks or the placement is longer than two weeks. Remember that it's always a good idea to tell your insurer about any changes like this. The Association of British Insurers has more information.