On-the-job experience is the very best teacher

The
focus on news this week is on the plight of older workers feeling under-used
(page 1). In contrast, I’d like to draw attention to young people as a resource
and, in particular, a fantastic scheme called a Year In Industry.

Few
HR professionals have experienced this initiative, which is organised by the
manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF. This apathy is confusing and also rather
ironic, given what a Year In
Industry placement could do for your business.

Almost
600 students are placed nationally each year with more than 250 companies. The
idea is that teenagers take a year out after leaving school and before
university to experience working life in an industrial environment. The scheme
gives employers access to the UK’s
brightest students – young people who are self-starters, well-motivated and
display astounding initiative. Some 26 per cent of  Year in
Industry students gain first class honours degrees and 97 per cent successfully
complete their placement.   

We
are not talking about students employed as merely assistants to others or
observers in the workplace. The real benefit of this scheme is that they get
stuck in and get their hands dirty tackling genuine business problems and
troubleshooting. They have to instigate change, produce specific results,
backed up by analysis, and get buy-in from the shopfloor and management.  

The
best Year In Industry
students compete for a national prize and, last week, seven young women and
five young men presented their achievements to judges. The overall winner, Katy
Earnshaw, 19, showed
maturity and responsibility that belied her age when she explained her
contribution to a Yorkshire-based metal components business.

Earnshaw was originally employed to save money by reducing
metallurgical failures arising from heat treatment in the engineering process.
But she developed the project so much further adding value in all aspects of
the business. She modernised antiquated working patterns, updated old and
obsolete equipment, changed suppliers, achieved cost savings, introduced
computer training and improved relations between shopfloor and management.

The
company said she showed tenacity, leadership, intelligence, sensitivity and
flexibility despite the complexity of her situation. It was so impressed by her
impact that it signed her up for a three-year contract after university.

The
Year In Industry scheme is
one of the most impressive employers will ever see in encouraging young people
into careers in engineering and manufacturing. HR spends a lot of time
reflecting on nurturing talent. This scheme is a superb way of capturing it at
the earliest opportunity. Sign up to it now at www.yini.org.uk.

By
Jane King, editor

 

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