Is the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme the right policy to follow?

The Youth Agenda explores if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme is the right policy for unemployed young people.

Contributions came from Siobhan Benita, Teresa Pearce MP, Chris Wilford of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Greggs the bakers (a participating organisation) and Chris Grayling MP – employment minister at the DWP.

About the scheme

Participation on the Voluntary Work Experience scheme is available to anybody aged 16-24 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 13 weeks. 

The scheme provides participants with a work experience placement of between two and eight weeks for 25-30 hours per week.  The scheme is voluntary and participants are not paid, but travel and childcare costs can be reimbursed.

Whilst taking part on the scheme, volunteers still need to search for work to continue to receive their Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The objective of the scheme is to provide hands on work experience for young people with few qualifications and little previous experience.  Some participants may be offered employment after completion of the scheme with the organisation they are volunteering for.

Individual needs

Chris Wilford, a policy advisor at the REC, a trade association representing the interests of employers to government, said:

‘It should be seen as part of a tailored package where this is one element.’  He encourages participants on the scheme to view it as ‘a step towards something and there should be an end goal with evaluation points at three, six, nine months after.’

Teresa Pearce MP discussed with The Youth Agenda, the need to tailor the service.  She said:

‘What I’d like is people fitted to work experience that fits them, whereas at the moment what happens is the organisations that send you on the work experience [are doing] a tick box exercise, to a certain extent.’

Teresa also argued for the need of success to be measured on individual merit, stating ‘each person’s different and what you want is a successful outcome for that person.’

The Youth Agenda also interviewed Greggs, the bakers, who are one of the companies participating in the scheme.  They gave a different perspective:

‘Working with Job Centre Plus, we ask for placements within specific areas so we get a good match and we supply them with a job description to help them match people with the roles they have specified as a preference.’

Daniel Kelly participated in the scheme with Greggs and was later offered a permanent job in their payroll function.  He described the opportunity provided to him as ‘a lifeline’.

When interviewed by The Youth Agenda, Chris Grayling MP (minister for employment at the DWP) highlighted:

‘Businesses should communicate with young people about the role they will play in the organisation, and what they can expect in return in terms of support, supervision and mentoring.’

Hope and sympathy

When interviewed by The Youth Agenda, Siobhan Benita, former candidate in the 2012 London mayoral elections, argued that the softer elements of hope for young people and sympathy from the government needed to be improved:

‘The biggest thing at the moment for young people, who are either leaving school at 18 or university, is the possibility of not having work.  So actually, a four week or an eight week placement is fine, but it doesn’t give that hope for the long term.’

Siobhan believes that young people need to take responsibility for their own careers, but added:

‘It’s fine for the government to be saying ‘you’ve got to do your bit’, and I agree with that, but there has to be more help out there.  There has to be more sympathy for how hard that is.’

Chris Grayling MP, however suggested that hope was provided from the scheme:

‘Work experience gives young people the skills to start on the career ladder and a chance to shine in front of a potential employer.’

He urged young people considering whether to participate on the scheme to take part.  He added ‘A short period of work experience is one of the best things you can do to help you find work and who knows – four weeks could turn into a lifetime career.’

If you have taken part in the Voluntary Work Experience scheme, are considering taking part or if you think the scheme either needs changing or is the wrong approach to take, we would like to hear from you.  Please leave your comments below.


Related links for more information on the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme

Direct Gov, a full overview of the scheme

Department for Work and Pensions, reasons for the scheme

Greggs, press release from their CEO about the scheme

Employment Related Services Association (ERSA)’s reaction to DWP’s statement on work experience placements

Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)


One Response to Is the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme the right policy to follow?

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