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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 10:19 GMT
Mobile phone firm to employ children
John Caudwell
John Caudwell promises lucrative rewards to teenagers
One of Britain's richest businessmen has provoked controversy by offering to make millionaires out of 14-year-olds by their selling computers.

John Caudwell, owner of Phones 4u, will offer part-time work demonstrating and selling hand-held computers to so-called junior high-flyers at the age of 14 and 15.

But the plans have been criticised by teaching unions, who say this will distract teenagers from their education.

Child employment law
Children below 13 cannot work with a few exceptions
Children can work 12 hour week
13-14-year-olds can work five hours and 15-16-year-olds, eight hours on Saturdays
Children can work two hours schooldays
Children cannot work before 7am or after 7pm
LEA must issue employment permit
Children cannot work in factories
The company, based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, devised a scheme in May aimed at attracting the best graduates by offering them starting salaries of up to 60,000 a year.

Mr Caudwell told the BBC: "I am recruiting people on 0.5m packages with very very big share options which are going to make them significantly rich in the near future.

"So in the long term there are very big packages but in the short term the wages will be about 3 an hour."

He is considering introducing a sales incentive scheme for the new recruits.

"Of course I am doing this for commercial reasons but also youngsters will have the opportunity to see what a business life is like."

The working conditions will conform to legislation on child labour.

Teenagers will work no more than six hours a week, and finish before 7pm.

Union concerns

In practice, the working hours during term time will have to be timetabled for weekends.

Potential recruit Chris Ansett
Junior high-flyer Chris Ansett is seizing the opportunity
But teaching unions say the company's strategy raises important concerns, especially at an age when teenagers should be studying for GCSE exams.

Raj Jethwa, youth officer for the TUC, said: "That attraction for some children could have disadvantages for children.

"They could think this is an alternative career route.

"We know it's not. We know that they should be concentrating on their education at this age and responsible employers know that also."

But potential recruits are jumping at the opportunity.

Teenager Chris Ansett said: "I am going for it because I think in the end you could end up on very good money and this puts you into it gradually.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea."

The graduates were recruited to help increase sales to 20bn by 2020. Last year's sales stood at 1bn.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"The paper round now seems less attractive"
See also:

24 May 01 | Business
Graduates eye 60K salaries
28 Mar 01 | Education
Children missing school to work
04 Apr 01 | Education
Jobs boom for graduates
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