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Graduates given employment headstart by health, safety organisation

07 April 2011

Health and safety graduates looking to get a head start in the job market are being offered work placements by the world’s leading organisation for health and safety professionals

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Food and Drink Group is now piloting the organisation’s Shadowing Scheme, to give graduates the opportunity of at least three months experience with a company in the food and drinks industry. By offering crucial hands-on experience of the world of health and safety work, it gives those on a placement a greater chance of getting onto the employment ladder.

This follows the Office of National Statistics’ recent announcement that the graduate unemployment rate is now at one in five – 20 per cent. Having reached the highest rate in a decade, the figure has doubled since before the start of the recession.

Committee members from IOSH’s Food and Drink Group are health and safety managers for some of the UK’s biggest food and drink manufacturers. They have pledged places for job-hunting IOSH graduate members with companies such as The Shropshire Group, Britvic, Greencore, Dairy Crest and Tulip.

IOSH Food and Drink Group committee member and project founder Tom Chambers, said: “A lot of recently qualified health and safety practitioners are coming out of education and struggling to find their first posts. We all know how tough times are at the moment, but I was still shocked at the sheer number of graduates who were desperate to find work – unpaid or paid.

“The IOSH Food and Drink Group is piloting the Shadowing Scheme purely to give unemployed graduates the opportunity to shadow experienced safety advisors and gain the experience they’ll need to get on that first rung of the employment ladder.
“After all, good qualifications are important, but that’s only half of the complete package.”

Mr Chambers, who is also Greencore’s Group Safety, Health and Environmental Manager, took on the Scheme’s first graduate in 2010 at the company’s Bow factory, which makes sandwiches and snacks for major retailers. Ernest Apau spent three months on his placement, but was offered a nine month extension to his contract as safety, health and environment (SHE) advisor.

Mr Apau, who lives in Orpington, Kent, said: “At the outset, I was only looking for a voluntary placement – anything I could do to get experience that would give me a better chance at getting employment.

“I’ve been taken through all the day-to-day activities with experienced SHE Advisors and have been provided with a unique opportunity to view what actually goes on in a modern food manufacturing facility. With my university knowledge I was halfway there, but the practical application has added the second half, giving me more confidence.”

Carolyn Issitt, IOSH membership development manager, who is responsible for sourcing and placing graduates on the Scheme, said: “We’re looking for newly qualified graduates who have so far, perhaps fallen victim to the difficult jobs market, and are looking for a shadow placement to give them practical experience in health and safety that gives them a competitive edge.

“Ernest Apau is an example not only of how the Scheme works to give practical knowledge, but also of how it can lead to greater things.

“Not only is this good for the graduates, it’s good for the companies who are offering places. It gives staff line management experience and allows them to channel new talent into the industry. We’ve got quite an ageing workforce at the moment, so this Scheme will play a vital part in sourcing companies’ future health and safety managers,” she added.

On placements, graduates will learn how to complete risk assessment schemes, work with insurers, insurance brokers, spend time with safety advisors on their day-to-day tasks and when dealing with enforcement officers like the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities. Expenses and other financial details will depend on the individual companies offering places.

IOSH is hoping to launch the Shadowing Scheme later in the year and depending on its success, offer positions in a wider range of industries for graduates looking to break into other areas.



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