MINISTERS WANT teenagers to do more work experience after employers revealed that relevant placements can boost earnings by pound;1,000 a year.
Although all students are expected to complete a work placement at school, a survey of employers showed more practical experience could mean an extra Pounds 87 a month for young employees. The pressure is on colleges to find high-quality work experience for teenagers who missed out at school either because they did not do work experience or because they were given only a token placement that failed to develop their skills.
Phil Hope, the skills minister, said: "By offering work experience to young people we will help create the skilled workforce of tomorrow. Work experience is essential in linking education and employment. It is critical that all young people are given work experience opportunities as this allows them to make decisions about their learning and employment paths."
There is no statutory requirement for work experience in colleges but, since 2004, schools have been required by law to ensure all pupils complete a work placement by the time they take GCSEs.
However, in the survey of 412 businesses for the Learning and Skills Council, employers said they found the quality of young people's experience varies enough to warrant a pound;1,050 premium for 16 to 19-year-olds who have done relevant work.
On average, recruiters said they would offer a salary of pound;10,927.55 for applicants with minimum qualifications. But if they have done a relevant work placement, that could rise to pound;11,984.94. In some parts of the country, the gap is even wider, with a pound;1,500 premium in London on relevant work experience.
Nearly 90 per cent of businesses said work experience was an important part of the CV.
And more than one in ten said they would not even interview a candidate who had not completed a relevant placement.
More than half of employers said that finding work without prior experience will be even harder in the future, and a fifth said work placements would become essential to get jobs.
But too few employers are offering high-quality work experience, the LSC said.
Only three-quarters offer any kind of work placement, although about 40 per cent of these include payment.
Julia Dowd, director of learning and the LSC, said: "Work experience is absolutely crucial in today's competitive job market. Without the minimum set of qualifications and relevant experience before entering the job market it will be difficult to find employment or earn a good wage."
The Confederation of British Industry said it valued work experience, although some small businesses find placements a burden.
However, the employers' organisation said it was difficult to believe that businesses were really paying pound;1,000 more for students who had done placements.
Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy, said: "Work experience offers a valuable insight into a career and the working environment. It gives young people an edge over the competition for jobs and boosts employability in skills like teamworking and business awareness.
"Employers really value young people with the right attitude who have taken the trouble to build their work experience."