The Skills Company has been awarded the highest quality standard for its range of work experience placements and traineeships, which benefit more than 1,000 young people a year. The Work Experience Quality Standard award is administered by Fair Train, a national charity which champions the benefits of work experience and works with employers and learning providers to encourage organisations to offer work-based learning opportunities.

 The Gold Standard is the highest quality award for work experience and demonstrates exemplary performance in employment practices, including commitment to the progression of learners and supportive supervision throughout the work experience placement. Commenting on the award, Alan Benvie, Director of Study Programmes at The Skills Company said: "Work experience is one of the cornerstones of our work in helping young people gain employment.  A huge amount of work goes into providing meaningful work experience placements for our young people and we know it is worth it.  I would like to congratulate staff from our training centres who put so much effort into working with employers to identify suitable opportunities, and supporting young people throughout the process."

 After leaving school, Tom Southern from St Helens started a plumbing course at college, but soon realised that this was not the career path he wanted to follow, and decided to leave. He didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do next, so he applied to the Skills Company training centre in St Helens in the hope that they would help him to find a career direction.

 At the training centre, Tom was able to explore his career options, including animal care, which he had an interest in. A programme of study and work experience was put together for Tom which included the opportunity for him to re-sit his English GCSE. An interview for a work placement in animal care was set up for Tom at the Dog Barn, a local company which offers a grooming service, pet supplies, and ‘doggy day care’. Tom started his placement at the Dog Barn initially for two days a week while he studied at the training centre the rest of the week.

 Tom quickly struck up a good rapport with the manager and the rest of the team and as his confidence grew, he built up his stock knowledge and developed his customer service skills. After six weeks Tom was offered a Saturday job, and he now knew that this was the career path he wanted to follow. Tom was delighted when he was taken into full time employment with the company.

 Tom continued to attend the training centre with the agreement of his manager, who amended his shift pattern to allow him to continue to study for his GCSE English qualification, which he subsequently achieved.

 Tom said: “My work experience gave me new transferable skills that you need in everyday life as well as work. I also learned a lot about animal care and behaviour and the work experience helped me to get the job I wanted.”

Beth Gardner, CEO of Fair Train said: "I'm delighted that The Skills Company has achieved the Work Experience Quality Standard award, which demonstrates its commitment to well-planned work experience in helping young people make the transition into employment.  Achieving this robust accreditation shows that The Skills Company provides high-quality work experience placements, including Traineeships, and is setting an example of good practice for other local organisations to follow." The Work Experience Quality Standard is an independent, nationally-recognised quality benchmark developed by national charity Fair Train and part-funded by UKCES (UK Commission for Employment & Skills) that is recognised by key government departments, Local Enterprise Partnerships, employers, trade unions, the National Careers Service and others who co-ordinate work experience.