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Project 4 -Employers' perspectives



Opportunity for labour market entrants is a sensitive issue during periods of recession, and the youth labour market is currently a focus of concern for employers. Key issues that remain unaddressed relate to employers’ use of work placements and these more precarious forms of employment as transitions from education to the labour market and why they use them.

Key questions are:

  • Do they reduce the risk facing employers that a new hire will fail to integrate into the productive workforce?
  • Do employers view such experiences as part of their social obligations in times of high unemployment?
  • Do they reduce or increase recruitment costs?What are the perceived longer term benefits for the organisation?

As well as addressing the above questions, this project will examine employers’ attitudes towards and experiences of using unpaid workers:

  • What are the advantages and costs to employers in using unpaid workers?
  • How do unpaid workers engage with the wider systems of management and organisational control within the workplace?


The project will identify six case studies of employers that make use of young unpaid, temporary or part-time workers in small, medium and large organizations (two case studies in each). The case studies will comprise accounts over time that describe how employers make use of such workers, including their tenure, to determine whether or not they have led or are intended to lead to more permanent employment. The case studies will also take account of historical data which will allow us to see how long employers retain policies over time, or whether these policies change in response to exogenous contingencies such as recession.

Interviews will be supplemented by an exploration of the nature of work, job design, and managerial systems operating in the workplace in order to build a view of the wider context of employment and management.

Intended Outcomes:

To examine if there are key differences in attitudes and experience toward unpaid labour depending on (inter alia) organisational size and sector. We would expect differences between (for example) professional service firms where pathways to employment may be more successful and clearly defined, than in retail or manufacturing where pathways may be more precarious. Large organisations may exhibit more of a cohort approach to labour whereas smaller firms may adopt a more apprentice-like approach to a smaller number of young unpaid workers.To identify examples of interesting and innovative practice, which will allow us to develop policy-oriented findings.

The project will conduct a detailed exploration of the dynamics of local labour market opportunities and obstacles, as experienced by job-seekers, employers and those who provide links between them. The research aims to answer the following questions:

  • Does work experience per se, or only certain types of work experience, or work experience undertaken in some contexts, increase young people’s access to employment opportunities?
  • Under what circumstances does part-time and temporary employment lead to full-time jobs and career opportunities?
  • Where work experience is an informal arrangement, unpaid or otherwise organised outside the labour market, how and why are decisions made by employers to provide these opportunities?
  • Who accesses them, who benefits from them and who is placed at a disadvantage?

This intensive regional study conducted alongside three other related projects (project1, project2, project3) will reveal evidence of actual work histories, working arrangements and contractual relations across the full spectrum of the youth labour market, clarifying the structure of labour market integration opportunities. In helping to unravel the complex interrelationships between social inequalities, access to educational opportunities and labour market dynamics, the findings will provide evidence to inform the formulation of policy, careers advice and guidance and employment practice.

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Professor Melanie Simms

University of Leicester, UK




Professor David Wilson

the Open University, UK



Funded by:

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