Saturday 25 March 2017

Pret a Manger Looking To Recruit UK's Teenagers To Tackle Looming Staff Crisis

Pret a Manger

Pret a Manger is hoping to solve its looming recruitment crisis by offering 500 British teenagers a week of unpaid work experience.

The sandwich chain wants to hire 16- to 18-year-olds over the summer. They would not be paid, but would be offered free food. One in 50 of Pret’s job applicants were born in the UK, so the company is particularly exposed to the threat of non-UK workers avoiding the country in the wake of Brexit or choosing to return home.

Participants in Pret’s Big Experience Week will “get exposure to aspects of our business including food production, customer service, social responsibility (care for the homeless) and financial control”, according to the company, which did not reply to a request for clarification on expenses.

With Brexit on the horizon, Pret said the new work experience programme was part of efforts to take on the “long-term challenge that Pret and the wider industry must meet to ensure hospitality is seen by Brits as a serious career choice”.

“Attracting British applicants is not exclusively a Pret problem, and is symptomatic of a wider cultural bias. British schools and parents don’t always take careers in the hospitality industry seriously, but they really ought to. The industry has changed dramatically over the past 20 years and today it is strong, dynamic and growing,” Andrea Wareham, human resources director at Pret, wrote in a blog on the company’s website.

Wareham told a parliamentary committee earlier this month that one in 50 applicants for jobs at Pret were British.

She said the company would find it all but impossible to recruit enough staff if it were forced to turn its back on EU nationals after Brexit.

Tanya de Grunwald of Graduate Fog, a campaigner for fair internships, said it was good for young people to experience the world of work, but the new placements should be paid.

“The best kind of experience is hands-on experience where it is really clear that the young worker has set hours and responsibilities and is doing proper work. By law, if that’s the case they should be paid.”

The minimum wage for the under-18s is £4 an hour. It is £5.55 for 18- to 20-year-olds and £7.20 for the over-25s. De Grunwald said this low rate made it cheap to employ young people.

“If Pret really wants to impress this age group they should be paying [the work experience participants],” she said.

Pret said it hoped to offer permanent roles to anyone who wished to apply following their experience week and would stay in touch with those who wanted to remain in education and apply at a later stage.

The company will be promoting the Big Experience Week through a network of schools with which it already works on a school leavers programme. It will also run a social media campaign.

Pret is also hoping to attract more British workers by increasing recruitment advertising, using social media, doubling the intake to its school leavers programme and working with Jobcentre Plus.



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