A new Charter launched today (22 August) by unionlearn – the learning and skills arm of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) – will provide assistance for young people, union reps, employers and training providers to ensure that the government's new traineeship programme offers young people the best possible introduction to the world of work.
The traineeships programme, which will be launched nationwide, is targeted at 16-24 year olds who are unemployed and who need to gain additional skills to find an apprenticeship or employment.
The TUC agrees with ministers that high-quality work experience is an important factor in helping young people into work. However, The TUC is concerned that poor quality schemes could lead to exploitation, with trainees being used as free labour and possibly even displacing existing workers.
Young people can also become disillusioned with schemes if they are not given relevant high-quality training and work experience or any chance of a job at the end of a placement, warns the TUC.
The TUC has therefore launched its Traineeships Charter – designed for union representatives, but also useful for employers, training providers and young people looking to start a traineeship – that sets out several key points to ensure that a traineeship is high quality.
The Charter says that young people should expect the following from a traineeship:
- Where work of value is done by a trainee, employers should pay them. This will also help prevent trainees displacing existing workers.
- Placements should give young people the skills relevant to their aims and the needs of the local labour market to raise their chances of future employment.
- Trainees should be offered careers guidance and advice on other work-related issues such as health and safety and employment rights.
- Qualifications received on a traineeship should count towards an apprenticeship framework.
Director of unionlearn Tom Wilson said: "With nearly a million young people currently out of work, unions believe that more needs to be done to help them get their careers back on track.
'Traineeships can provide a vital bridge between education and work or an apprenticeship - but only if they are of sufficiently high quality.
"Bad schemes can exploit trainees and displace existing workers from paid employment without doing anything to help young people into work.
"For a work placement to be genuinely useful it should offer fair pay when work of value is done, proper careers guidance and a guaranteed job interview at the end.
"While the TUC Traineeships Charter is primarily designed for union reps to negotiate better schemes with employers, it should also be useful for training providers and young people wanting to know what to expect from a good quality work placement."
Matthew Chamberlain had limited employment experience and had been out of work for eight months when he was offered a work experience placement with Mersey Travel in Liverpool. A well-structured placement, supported by the union learning fund and involving a number of unions, in which Matthew was able to learn about all parts of the business, led to a job offer after completing his work experience. This is exactly the kind of work experience that employers should be offering under the Traineeships programme, says the TUC.
Matthew Chamberlain said: "2009 was a tough time for a young person to lose a job. Thankfully I was offered a work placement with Mersey Travel through their Merseylearn team. I was able to experience all parts of the business, develop the skills I needed to do a job and got a real taste for working there. After four months, I was offered a job and four years on I'm still working my way up.
"With nearly a million young people out of work today, I hope they get the opportunity of a high quality work experience placement, as it will hopefully kickstart their careers too."