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Customer-facing industry placements after coronavirus (COVID-19)

This article provides thoughts and ideas to help employers to think through and plan for being able to welcome students on customer-facing industry placements whilst considering the journey out of COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-19 and safety concerns on site

Key safety procedures will have been put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within customer-facing workplaces.

Students must be fully aware of the company’s safety procedures

You will be responsible for ensuring the student is aware of all safety procedures prior to starting the placement. This can be done by sending out virtual guides or leaflets on what is in place.

This may be the students first experience of work and so it is good to recap regularly and ensure that if the student works on different sites that updates on safety arrangements are provided for each.

Under 18s and their expectations of work

In many workplaces, students under 18 may face limitations on what they can do to maintain their safety and wellbeing and T Level students may be limited to certain activities and using certain equipment and there must be full supervision.

For example, in hairdressing there will be a requirement to include safety training around the safe handling and storage of hair bleaches and other chemicals.

Planning will be essential in advance of the placement; liaising with the provider to ensure students, parents and other stakeholders have accurate and realistic expectations of this experience and how COVID may have impacted processes. You also need to be clear about the team’s capacity to support students.

“We are offering placements in hospitality but following the creative media T Level qualification as we need support with marketing and promotion. We need to remember these are young, inexperienced workers and so they need supervision and support, but you then see them grow and develop in skills. They relieve the pressure on the business and bring different ideas and ways of working which add to the business.”
Shelton’s Coffee – Leicestershire

Social distancing and managing large teams

While at work, staff and students will be expected to maintain social distancing, adhere to government guidelines and there will be adequate hygiene procedures in place such as hand sanitising stations. These measures should be emphasised to students prior to entering the workplace.

For larger teams, it may be a good idea to split them into ‘bubbles’ and put them on shifts. This means, if one team is to come into contact with the virus, the other may be able to help with the workload while they isolate.

Ensuring that the student is working in a team or bubble with their supervisor will need to be part of the planning process. Having more than one supervisor may be beneficial to ensure that the student always has access to a supervisor whilst at work.

Customers and social distancing

Staff and students should maintain the recommended 1 metre distance from customers where possible. Correct PPE (masks, visors and possibly gloves) should be worn by staff and students and customers must wear face coverings to avoid transmission of COVID-19.

Where distancing is not possible, such as hair or beauty salons, staff and students should ensure there is minimal contact with the customer and hands should be washed frequently. The use of screens and barriers between customers, workstations and tables will also help with this.

Sharing tools and service equipment between staff and customers

In the beauty and retail sectors, staff and students will have to share tools and equipment. Students will need to be made aware of the cleansing regimes to ensure that tools and equipment are regularly cleaned between uses and especially between clients.

In hospitality, both staff and customers may use the service equipment (for example, crockery in a restaurant or bed linen in a hotel). This must be properly cleaned to avoid the spread of the virus.

Reduced teams, limited personnel and home working

Engaging busy staff to provide the required supervision for a placement student may be a challenge and they will need to understand the strategic vision behind offering placements.

Effective planning, involving supervisors, will be essential to gain a shared understanding of the roles, responsibilities, opportunities and challenges.

By utilising the sector specific flexibilities industry placement students can be prepared to work between 2 different employers.

Anne Veck recognises the changing landscape of technical education and want to adapt to it.
Working with trusted providers to recruit their T Level students should mitigate any risks associated with taking on this new type of placement student.

“We are certainly open to T Level students joining us. Our instinct is to do what we have done before – we know it works well and it helps us as a business – which is to go for a 1 day a week placement.”

It has always been most important to Anne Veck that the individual is the right fit for the team. Being proactive, passionate, and personable are crucial foundations for all their staff, irrespective of their training route. 

The salon aims to host students who are in their second year of their course. Having already undergone a year of training, the team believe that second year students will possess many of the skills to be effective in the salon.

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