Why offering high quality work experience placements are important

 This week it’s Work Experience Week, led by Fair Train, which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of high quality work experience in the UK. This gives us an opportunity to look at why work experience is important and how it can help young people progress in their careers. 

I’ve been leading the work experience programme for two years now since I completed my apprenticeship at the City & Guilds Group. And in my role as Youth Engagement Executive, I am privileged to be able to see first-hand how work experience can help people take that first step in their careers. 

In the recent months youth unemployment figures have gone down slightly to 12%, but that’s still too high. I often hear that young people struggle to get into work because employers don’t think they have enough experience; however the harsh reality is that if they can’t get a job, how can they get the experience they need? That’s why it’s so important for businesses to open up work experience opportunities for young people.

So what’s my advice if you’re an employer offering work experience placements?

There’s no denying that you need to invest time, budget and resource into your work experience placements. But if you put together a structured programme with real work tasks for the students to do, you can maximise the benefits for your business too.  

For example, work experience students offer new and fresh perspectives that you may not have thought of before. You can also develop your current employees by giving them the chance to become work experience mentors and develop and practise their leadership and management skills. Plus being able to help someone in their career is incredibly rewarding and can help employees be more engaged and passionate about their organisation.  

So what does a structured programme look like? Well first of all, it means providing work experience students with a mentor who can support them during their placement. The mentor would then work with the student to help them understand what’s expected of them and how they can get the most out of their placement.

Also, you should remember that work experience students are with you to learn and do something that they don’t normally get the opportunity to do. So, at the beginning of the placement you should encourage mentors to sit down with the student to find out what they think their strengths and weaknesses are so you can utilise/ develop them – but also so that you can give them a project that will stretch them. And, it goes without saying that mentors should encourage their wider teams to make the student feel welcomed to help them settle in.

Here at the City & Guilds Group we have developed a really successful work experience programme with 95% of work experience students saying they would recommend our programme. Students join us for one or two week placements and are given a workbook to complete. In addition to information about the City & Guilds Group and our expectations of them during the placement, the workbooks also include a number of tasks such as writing a blog for our intranet to help them improve their writing skills.

Our purpose is all about getting people into a job, developing on the job and onto the next job. And work experience is an example of how all businesses can support young people with getting the experience they need to enter the world of work.

Find out more about our work experience programme and other youth engagement opportunities here.

Tiana Locker - Youth Engagement Executive

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Tiana Locker is Youth Engagement Executive at City & Guilds Group. She has worked at the Group since 2012 and currently leads the youth engagement programmes.