Pret a Manger will be paying its work experience participants this summer after its ‘Pret's Big Experience Week' initiative came under fire.
The company's HR director recently admitted only one in 50 Pret job applicants are British, a problem it hoped to address with the initiative, which is offering 500 16-18 year olds one week work experience placements.
"Participants will get exposure to aspects of our business including food production, customer service, social responsibility (care for the homeless) and financial control," it said.
However, the recruitment drive came under criticism, prompting Pret's chief executive to announce all participants would be paid.
The minimum wage is £4 an hour for under 18s and £5.55 for 18- to 20-year-olds.
It added that Pret will be increasing its recruitment advertising, reaching out on social media, doubling its School Leavers Programme intake and working with new partners like Jobcentre Plus.
Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret, said: "Pret's Work Experience Week is not about making sandwiches for free. We set it up so that 16-18 year olds can shadow our teams and get a flavour for what working at Pret is like. We've seen how passionately people feel about the initiative, and in response I would like to confirm that we will pay all participants Pret's starting hourly rate and of course provide free food as well."
HR director Andrea Wareham wrote a blog on Pret's website last week: "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.
"It will take time and effort to change the hearts and minds of the British public, parents and schools. This is a long-term challenge that Pret and the wider industry must meet to ensure hospitality is seen by Brits as a serious career choice."
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