Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Work experience

Work experience is not just an exercise for school-children in years 10 and 11. This form of involvement in the world of work for young people, which can demonstrate employability, is becoming an important factor in the job market. Large businesses may fill up to half of their vacancies with candidates who have completed some kind of work experience.

While an ‘internship’ might describe on-the-job training for a graduate with a career in mind, the wider term ‘work experience’ can denote the testing-out of job options while building self-confidence for students in a gap year, during further or higher education, or once the student has left full-time education. Those seeking work experience placements can send out their CV and a covering letter to all kinds of businesses, to see if they would be interested in offering this type of work.

Work experience placements may not be paid, depending on individual arrangements, but the involvement may still be beneficial as the individual will be able to record the experience and skills gained on their CV. Alternatively, young people looking for a further challenge could save up and contribute to the costs of engaging in voluntary work in this country or abroad.

Colleges and Universities may find work experience placements for their students, this is the case particularly if work experience forms part of an educational institutions programme of study for their students. For example, sandwich courses, course-related projects, or industrial and business placements. With the educational focus, students also benefit from supervision and assessment. Sometimes students are offered jobs by the business concerned at the end of their education.

However, any students under 18 who take part in work experience should be treated by the business involved as ‘young workers’ and restrictions may apply to the type of work they can undertake. All the students, school leavers or unemployed on work experience are regarded in health and safety law as employees and must be provided with the required protection.

From June 2012, some form of work experience is to be made compulsory for jobseekers. The Mandatory Work Activity scheme entails Jobcentre advisers referring those claiming benefits to unpaid placements in the local community. These placements will last a month and consist of 30 hours work per week. If a jobseeker refuses to work, their benefits may be cut for a minimum of three months.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

How to change your career

You may be dissatisfied with the career you have at present, or you may have a dream career that you want to pursue and neither of these situations are unusual. Many people these days change their career, even in their forties or fifties. Having a portfolio of different jobs need not be seen as a negative aspect either, especially if you have achieved transferable skills and gained experience through varied employment.

The first step is to find out what new career would suit you and many working people start by using their hobbies or interests as a guide. For example, you may do voluntary work with the elderly, or perhaps you enjoy independent travelling. You might try to find out what appeals to you about these activities, how they fit in with your previous working experience and educational qualifications and how you could capitalise on any special skills you have learned.

Once you have decided on the new career you want, you should find out what it will entail. For example, will you have to attain new qualifications and how much will they cost? How will you support yourself while you retrain? What is the typical workday like for someone in the career you desire? Finally, what are the prospects in that field of work? For example, there may already be plenty of reflexologists in the town where you live.

There are careers advisers and other agencies that can help you look at the choices you might have for changing career and they can also give advice if you have decided on the course of action you wish to pursue. For example, the Sector Skills Councils can give advice about careers in particular industries.

You may need to study for a higher qualification or even an academic degree for your chosen career. There are shorter Foundation degrees and certificate or diploma courses to consider, as well as full honours degrees. Universities and colleges may not require traditional entry requirements from mature students and the best advice is to study the prospectus and then ask to talk to someone in admissions about fees and course structures. It is possible to study part-time so that you can work to supplement your income, especially if you have family commitments.

Finally, there is no time like the present, to make that change.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

When will my employer pay for further education?

Further education for employees may be welcomed by employers, if the qualification improves employees’ skills and benefits the workplace. Basic literacy and numeracy courses, vocational skills training, and career-development studies are available to employers from a range of Learning Providers, often in partnership with government funding. These courses may be completed in or out of the workplace, or a through combination of the two.

If you are an employed ‘young person’ who is over 16 but under 18 years old, you could be entitled to time off for study, if you have not reached a level of education equivalent to five passes at GCSE (Level 2). Therefore you could take some paid time off during working hours in order to achieve a relevant Level 2-type qualification. An employer should allow 18 year-olds to finish a study course they have already started.

If you are not a ‘young person’ and want to study and you work in an organisation of 250 or more, you have the right to request time off for further education which is called 'time to train'. The training must be relevant to your present job. In order to qualify, you must have given 26 weeks’ continuous service to your employer, but courses are not time-limited. For example, you could request to study a foreign language if your company has started trading abroad, or you could improve your written English skills for paperwork.

You should make a proper request to your employer for time to train and it would help to outline why this would benefit their business. If there is no government funding for the course you want to study, your employer is not obligated to fund the training or to pay you the same salary for time off, although they may do so in a variety of ways. An employer may ask you to work flexibly, for example, so you can make up for time taken off work.

Additionally, in England there is a three-tier programme of apprenticeships. These periods of on-the-job training may last up to four years and are available in an increasingly wide range of business sectors. Although apprenticeships do not guarantee employment at the end of your training, they do lead to nationally-recognised qualifications. The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £2.60 per hour, although employers often pay more as the apprentice progresses.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Is it possible to study and work at the same time?

Studying and working at the same time needs flexibility and commitment and preferably a supportive employer. Nevertheless, the government is encouraging employers and educators to collaborate on ways to deliver further education to employees, to help close the ‘skills-gap’.

Presently, if you are 16 or 17 years old and have not yet achieved a GCSE level of education or equivalent, you are entitled to time off work to study for that level. The time off should be paid at your normal hourly rate. 18 year-olds may finish a course of study, if they started it before being employed.

Apprenticeships can be sought in many types of business, such as:
·         Accountancy
·         Administration
·         Construction
·         Leisure

These work-based training programmes are offered to new and existing employees who are under 24 years old. Apprenticeships, which offer nationally-recognised qualifications, are on the increase in the economic downturn. However, you may only be paid a National Minimum Wage of £2.60 an hour while you are studying.

Your employer may sponsor you to take a full-time course at a college, where you return to work during the institution’s holidays or at weekends. They may pay a certain amount to you as living expenses whilst you study, and keep your job open for you. Equally, many University or college courses incorporate a year spent working in the relevant business or industry as part of the learning process.

Some large companies offer programmes of employer-funded undergraduate degrees. The employer will fund fees and tuition expenses, generally for business degrees, while paying a small salary to the undergraduate. In turn, the undergraduate will work for the company while spending one or two days a week at University.

If you work in a company of 250 or more, you have the right to request time off for further education, called 'time to train'. The training must lead to a recognised qualification that develops relevant skills. In order to qualify, you must have given 26 weeks’ continuous service to your employer. If you make a proper request and this is refused by an employer who does not follow the proper refusal procedure, or if you are dismissed for asking for ‘time to train’, you may be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal. If this is the case, you should consult a specialist employment solicitor.