Advertisement: open in new window
Fast-food restaurant chain Burger King has become the latest employer to pull out of the government’s work experience programme, which has drawn criticism for exploiting jobless people.The burger giant said it had previously signed up to the programme with the intention of taking on young jobseekers at its headquarters in Slough, but had now withdrawn because of the ‘public concerns’ about the initiative."Given the recent concerns expressed by the public we have decided to no longer have any involvement in the programme," it said in a statement.The move follows Tesco’s announcement last week that it was putting in place a paid work experience scheme as an alternative to the government’s programme, after it suffered a backlash on Twitter and a protester invasion at one of its stores.Other employers to have distanced themselves from the programme in recent weeks include Sainsbury's, Waterstones, Maplin and TK Maxx, Matalan and Holland & Barrett.Last year there were 34,200 starts on the Get Britain Working work experience programme, which targets unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds and offers them unpaid placements ranging from two to eight weeks in length.It is voluntary to sign up for the initiative, but jobseekers face losing their benefits if they drop out after a one-week ‘cooling off’ period – a condition that has provoked allegations that it is providing free labour to organisations.However, defenders of the scheme say that employers are offering worthwhile experience to the participants, boosting their confidence and skills, and that many of them go on to get jobs at the firms they are placed with. In a column in today’s Telegraph, London Mayor Boris Johnson said critics of the scheme came from the ‘loony left’ and that their actions would ‘scupper young people’s chances of finding employment’.“Here we are with an economy still taking ages to recover,” said Johnson. “We have more and more young people out of work, and who find themselves caught in a catch-22. They are told they can’t get a job unless they have some work experience; and they can’t get any work experience unless someone is willing to give them a job. The Coalition has come up with a scheme to help them into places of work, and to give them at least some of the confidence and the credentials they crave... and yet there are a tiny number of bellyachers from the Socialist Workers Party who have decided that they hate the scheme, that it is a ramp for bullying and exploitation, and that they are going to disrupt it in any way they can. The amazing thing is that they appear to be succeeding.”The CIPD called on employers not be deterred from offering work experience. “With youth unemployment in the UK at an all time high, we should be doing all we can to encourage employers to help young people, not deter them," said Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the CIPD. "In the current labour market, experience of the working world is the single most important aspect employers look for when recruiting, so without it young people struggle to get a job. Work experience is a proven way of giving young people a first step on the employment ladder."