Work Experience Scheme: Brilliant Idea or Forced Labour?

Work Experience Scheme: Brilliant Idea or Forced Labour?

I guess that few of you will have missed the media furore caused by the government's new Work Experience Scheme. It has been dominating the headlines over the past few days and every time I turn on the TV or radio, it seems there's another story about a well-known company 'dropping out' of the scheme.

This is a topic which has caused much debate in the Duarté household as well as at Escape Studios. The views are obviously mixed, but in my mind, there's absolutely no doubt that young people are desperate for work experience. So why on earth are we letting some over hyped media craze derail what is actually a good idea? An idea, which let's not forget, was initiated by young people themselves.

I am not saying that the scheme is perfect - sure, there's always room for improvement - but I get rather depressed when I hear that large companies are dropping out of the scheme for PR reasons, because they can't be seen to be associated with what some 'well meaning' activists are labelling as 'forced labour'.

These companies are the perfect places for youngsters to get work experience. They have the personnel and the structure required to deliver good training and we should be encouraging more of them do so. Many have complained that they should be paying these people, but these are the same people who do not appreciate the commitment and time required to train a young worker. I speak for experience, having done it on many occasions. It is not as easy to do as people make out and it takes a lot of time (and therefore money) to deliver the training these young people need. 

I have also heard that many think these schemes are being used by large companies to avoid paying normal staff to do low paid jobs and should therefore be the reserve of small businesses only. That baffles me. Small businesses are really stretched and can ill afford to give precious time to training, whereas large businesses have the structures required to 'swallow' the extra workload created by trainees. 

Work experience schemes have been in place in countries like France for over 20 years and they are a godsend to young people. I did three myself after I left university and that’s what gave me the experience I lacked, and what eventually led me to land my first job.

I am curious to hear the views of people who are most directly affected by this, i.e. those who are entering the job market for the first time. Their voice has sadly not been represented in much of the coverage this story has got, and in my view, we should start there.

So, if you are currently looking for your first job and lack that crucial work experience, do let me know what your thoughts are on this. I’d love to get your perspective.

1 Comments Isabelle Duarte

Posted by
Isabelle Duarte
Thu 1 Mar 2012: 10:53am

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  • ataul munim:

    What would your take be on a situation where young people were asked to pay in order to receive work experience, not just working for free?

    I'm referring of course to Digital Domain's recently announced scheme where "free labour is better than cheap labour", a provocative move in an industry already beleaguered by a reputation of unfair working conditions for artists (including but not limited to regular unpaid overtime).

    It's sad that these sorts of issues are either brushed aside as non-issues just because the workers continue working - if they don't, there is always another few artists fighting for that job in that prestigious studio. The closest I've seen is the Mill posting a link to a blog post by vfxsoldier on twitter.

    It would be reassuring to hear production companies (or training institutions) discuss the problem openly, including some of the sources of the problem , like bigger studios having an ever decreasing budget for post work, in order to try to solve it, in what clearly is one of the most desired industries to be in.

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