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Work experience guide

Last reviewed on 28 December 2017

Here at the Co-op we know that work experience is a great way for people to learn about the world of work, develop their skills and raise their awareness of career opportunities with the Co-op.

Cruical bits

We want to offer high quality work experience placements that focus on gaining skills and experience. Our placements aren’t just about work shadowing – they’ll give the person the opportunity to gain valuable experience by doing a job alongside our colleagues.

We encourage you to consider requests for work experience placements, but if you work in an area of the business that’s externally regulated please speak to your manager about whether this would be appropriate.

You can offer work experience placements to anyone, but typically we tend to give placements to:

  • Students in their last two years of compulsory schooling
  • Students taking post-16 courses
  • Unemployed adults wishing to gain experience and an insight into our business

Length of placements

Work experience placements for school students usually last for one or two weeks, but placements for post-16 students or adults can be more flexible – such as one day a week for six weeks – but shouldn’t be longer than 10 days in total. If you want to offer a placement of more than 10 days, then any days worked after the first 10 should be paid – see below for more information about payment.

Hours of work

You’ll need to agree with the person the number of hours that they’re going to work. Remember, if they’re under 18 you must involve the school or college in your discussions and be aware that:

  • Young people under 16 must not work over 25 hours a week (35 hours if 15 or over) during school holidays or when not attending school due to a work experience placement. They must also not work for more than eight hours (five hours if under 15) on any day or for more than two hours on Sunday. They should not work for more than four hours without a one hour break and any hours they work must be between 7am – 7pm.
  • Young people over school leaving age but under 18 must not work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. They are also entitled to a 30 minute break after four and a half hours worked.

Payment

Work experience placements are unpaid so you shouldn’t offer to pay people. If they’re going to have significant travel or other expenses during the placement, you may agree to pay for these – you’ll need to agree this with them and your manager before the placement starts. Talk to the school/college as they may be able to provide a subsidy.

If you want to offer someone a paid work placement or a short period of paid work after a 10 day unpaid placement, you’ll need to pay them the standard rate for the role. How you do this will depend on the length of the period of work:

- Less than 3 months: they should be employed as a temporary agency worker through our recruitment partner – see Recruiting Temporary Agency Workers and Contractors on the Intranet.

- 3 months or more: you should offer them a fixed-term contract with the Co-op. To do this you will need to raise a recruitment requisition on My.Recruit – see Raising a Requisition on the Intranet.

Things to think about

If you get a request for a work experience placement there’s a Work Experience process on the intranet which takes you through the steps you need to follow.

Before offering a placement

If you’re thinking of providing work experience, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Structure of the placement – how long can you offer a placement for, what would work best for the business and the person?
  • Time and resources available - do you and your team have the time needed to make sure they have a great work placement experience?
  • Benefits for the person and the business – you’ll need to make sure that you can provide meaningful work that is suitable for them to do and that benefits the business.
  • Any reasonable adjustments you may need to make – do they have a disability or health condition which means that you’ll make adjustments to your workplace or the work that you ask them to do?

Offering placements

How often you provide work experience placements is up to you. If you get lots of requests for work experience it might be easier to build a relationship with schools or colleges in your community and provide placements to them, rather than dealing with ad hoc requests. If you’ve already got links with local schools you might want to contact them about offering work experience placements for their students.

The Co-op is proud to sponsor eight academies in Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and Leeds. If one of our academies is in your area and you’d like to support their existing work experience programmes, email workingwithschools@coop.co.uk Or you might want to contact a Co-op Trust School – see co-operativeschools.coop for more information.

You may also want to think about offering a Supported Work Experience placement - a specific type of placement to help people with disabilities into work, where the person is supported through a charity or government organisation. See the Supporting People with Disabilities into Work Guide on the intranet for more information.

Creating a great work experience placement

If a work experience placement is going to be valuable for everyone, it needs to be structured and well planned. Here are some tips for creating a great work experience placement:

  • Tailor the placement to their needs by finding out what they want to get out of it, the skills they want to develop, any barriers they face and their career aspirations.
  • Explain the role that they’ll play in our organisation so that they know what they’ll contribute and how they’ll be supported, supervised and mentored by our colleagues.
  • Let them know what you expect of them, which will be things like showing interest in the organisation, being willing to learn, respecting our values and adhering to our policies.
  • Give them open and honest feedback about what went well and where they could improve and perhaps some advice on how they could do this.
  • Celebrate and recognise their success so they know what they’ve done well and develop their confidence.

If you need further support

The Work Experience process gives you a step-by-step guide for managing work experience. If you have further questions, you should contact ER Services.