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Work experience has big part to play in reducing NEET statistic

As someone who benefited from early exposure to a trade of interest, Charlie Mullins argues that all businesses should do more to provide work experience.
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We’re entering that time of year when businesses of all sizes are inundated by requests from school kids asking for work experience. I’d encourage employers to offer placements, as I am convinced it will make a real difference to the availability of skilled people in the future.

Growing up I wasn’t, admittedly, a great lover of school but I was really keen to get involved with little jobs here and there – and did so until I landed my dream gig as an apprentice plumber at the age of 15.

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I knew that plumbing was what I wanted to do at the age of nine, when I bunked off school to help our local plumber Bill Ellis. However, I don’t think that the same can be said for so many kids, even those coming to the end of their time at secondary school.

Now, it’s compulsory for kids to do some sort of training, apprenticeship or further education until you’re 18. But, unless you know exactly what you want to do at the end of it, you have the potential to become stuck doing something you hate, and nobody has that sort of time to waste.

The UK has seen a slight decrease in youth unemployment, but there are still more than 820,000 16-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

We cannot underestimate the value of work experience, and it has a huge part to play on the road to securing more high-quality jobs for our country’s youngsters. It could be the determining factor in someone’s choice and give them the drive to secure their dream job. If nothing else, it can provide someone with exactly what it says on the tin – experience directly from the workplace, and confidence from working alongside experienced workers, from a young age.

We have always found that those who have had good quality work experience in a trade before they start an apprenticeship with us are much better prepared. As a result of the placement, they know it’s something that they want to do and make a success of – so they’re more enthusiastic, passionate and much more likely to stick it out.

A recent study by recruitment specialists Pareto showed that practical experience was as important as qualifications, and that employers look at what candidates have done away from the classroom when considering their applications. That’s why we think apprenticeships are so important, because they’re a combination of practical work and qualifications.

In the past I’ve had the pleasure working with The Prince’s Trust, providing World of Work tours, mentoring, and speaking to graduates about starting their own businesses. And we’re still working hard today to provide work placements for some top notch kids who want a step in the right direction.

To any young person who has a keen interest in taking up an apprenticeship and a career in a skilled trade, Pimlico Plumbers can offer a work placement. They get the chance to work with some of the industry’s top engineers, gain some hands on experience, as well as receive advice and knowledge straight from the horse’s mouth.

We also offer office-based work placements at our headquarters in London. This presents the perfect opportunity to learn the essential skills needed to work in an business environment and gain an insight into how the companies operate.

On top of the many work-based skills youngsters can pick-up are a raft of broader life skills, such as: reliability, appearance, communication and organisation which, let’s be honest, some adults could do with a refresher in.

Every job specification these days screams about needing “experience”, and if work experience is something that’s going to help our future workforce, I think we should be doing all we can to get more of our next generation into the system.

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About Author

Charlie Mullins

Charlie Mullins, also an OBE, is the archetypal entrepreneur – having started his business from scratch and then building it into a multi-million pound enterprise. From humble beginnings growing up on an estate in South London, he left school with no qualifications, but after a four-year plumbing apprenticeship he started his own firm, Pimlico Plumbers, which now generates a turnover in excess of £30m and boasts many well-known names among its many clients including Simon Cowell, Helen Mirren and Richard Branson. He has been a regular contributor on Real Business since 2011 and is particularly about apprenticships.

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