On hiring and Firing

28th November 1997 at 00:00
TO SIXTH-FORM co-ordinator Jean Carson, it was crucial that her pupils should learn the basics of business while studying for their A levels. So when she heard about Understanding Industry's programme of sending business people into schools, she grabbed the opportunity.

This year 120 pupils in Year 12 at Langley Park School for Girls in Beckenham are benefiting from the scheme. During the year they are split into four groups and attend eight sessions presented by a variety of companies.

The businesspeople outlines their theme and then discuss it with pupils to give them a grasp of the financial world, an area on which companies believe pupils badly need information.

My visit coincided with a visit by David Lilley, human resources adviser with NatWest. He explained to the 30 sixth formers the work of a personnel manager.

Mr Lilley uses his own experience to introduce the subject. Graduating with a history degree, he began working for NatWest more than 20 years ago and rose through the ranks to become a regional manager before a merger of two of the bank's regions swallowed his job.

He was then offered the position of human resources adviser, working from home and travelling around advising area managers on issues, such as the closure of branches or staff grievances.

"A human resources adviser has to think about how staff numbers match up to the future needs of the company. He has to consider recruitment, internal promotions, redeployment and retraining of displaced staff," he says. "Most businesses are trying to ensure they get as much income as possible. They want to expand the business but keep the costs low."

Splitting the sixth formers into two groups, he gives each a question to consider. One group is asked to think of ways companies that need to cut costs could avoid making people redundant, and the other must select the criteria which can help companies decide who to fire.

"I think job share, part-time employment and early retirement could help companies avoid making people redundant, says Gemma Wells. "They could also slow down their investment in new technology."

Becky Maynard has been pondering the other question. "Companies could choose who to fire according to the level of skills, length of service, reliability, reputation and ability for teamwork," she says.

Mr Lilley is impressed -the girls have taken the questions seriously. Now it is time to take a look at another issue in personnel: recruitment.

Using a video, the girls are shown how a compact disc manufacturer goes about recruiting staff. Then the bell goes and the lesson ends.

Jo Crank, 17, who wants to own her own business, says she thinks the additional lessons are worthwhile.

"I'm doing business studies but our teachers haven't got an inside view of the business world - meeting people who are involved in business is very helpful. "

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