Are you an employer in a firm that offers work experience opportunities to young people? Many companies work with schools to offer work experience programmes to school pupils in Year 10 and, increasingly, companies are also offering short work experience programmes to students who have completed their GCSEs or who are already in Further Education.
If you are already well acquainted with the experience of having young people come into your workplace for a few days then you probably already know some of the advantages this can bring to your firm. If post-GCSE work experience is not something you have thought about previously, however, it could be a great move for your company to introduce a programme.
These days, many of the United Kingdom’s top companies have post-GCSE work experience programmes in place and there must be a reason for this, right? Why have they gone to the trouble of designing and implementing these opportunities for students and school leavers?
Let’s first take a look at what work experience is and then some of the benefits employers see when they open their doors to young people. Is this a strategy you could consider for your own company?
What Is Work Experience And What Does It Mean For Employers?
The good news is, creating work experience opportunities for students and school leavers is a win win situation for both your company and for the young person undertaking your programme. For employers, work experience is about giving back to society and helping the future economy by doing your bit to help preparing young people for the world of work. Employers who offer work experience give young people the opportunity to work on the company premises for a few days or, in some cases, an extended period of a few weeks.
Many young people, once they have completed their GCSEs have an idea of what they want to do as a future career but they have no real hands on experience in the workplace. They are fresh from the classroom and so by offering work experience opportunities, employers help to shapes young people’s perceptions of the world of work. It gives students and school leavers an opportunity to be part of a different environment and to learn about what is expected of staff in the workplace from superiors and managers. It also gives them the opportunity to work alongside peers.
Creating work experience opportunities also means you are helping students and school leavers to make more informed choices about their future. Depending on the sector you are working in, their time in your workplace will give young people some valuable practical experience in an industry that could be competitive. Work experience within that profession or industry could be a crucial stepping stone for them and, of course, they will be more ready for the workplace once they have completed their programme.
It is said that, because a young person now has the hands on experience within your industry, they are more likely to remain in that field as a result of you offering work experience. Perhaps they are pondering an apprenticeship or a university route into your profession.
This benefits you as an employer because you have a bigger pool of young talent to choose from. It is well known that the United Kingdom is currently experiencing a skills shortage and this is acute in some industries. By creating work experience opportunities and giving students and school leavers a taster of your industry, you are helping to narrow that skills gap.
On the flip side of this, of course, you could also be giving your work experience person the opportunity to realise that your field of expertise is exactly what they don’t want to do with their future. This is still a win win for you and them. They’ve had a lucky escape and you haven’t wasted your time recruiting someone who realises further down the line that your sector is just not for them.
9 Benefits Of Work Experience For Employers
So, if you do decide to create some work experience programmes and opportunities for young people, they get to come into your workplace for a few days to sample like in your industry. A great benefit for them. But what’s in it for you? How does offering work experience benefit you as an employer?
Here are nine benefits for you to consider – in no particular order:
Benefit 1 – Work experience benefits your other employees
When you have a young person in your workplace, doing work experience programme, they need guidance and perhaps even a mentor. As an employer, you benefit from work experience because the morale of your existing team is boosted.
Your employees develop their own supervisory skills as they look after the work experience person and, in turn, feel valued in the workplace. I have written in the past about the challenges of keeping employees engaged and putting staff in charge of school leavers and students who are there to do work experience can be a great way to keep them engaged.
So as well as staff engagement, you are also giving your team opportunities to show any leadership qualities they might have This means you could find better ways to use those staff so that both they and the company benefit further down the line.
Benefit 2 – Offering work experience opportunities doesn’t cost you, financially
Another benefit to the employer for creating work experience programmes is is does not necessarily have to cost you. There is no legal requirement for you to pay the students or school leavers you have in your workplace. They are there to learn for a few days. Having said that, a lot of employers do like to help out a little by offering travel expenses and perhaps paid lunches to work experience staff.
I you are offering work experience in competitive fields such as media or law, for example, lots of young people are going to be willing to travel to get to work or your firm for a few days. It can be really beneficial if you can offer travel expenses because your candidate can get to the workplace and you might also spot your next young recruit. You don’t want to miss out on young talent just because those people have no way of getting to you
Benefit 3 – Employers benefit because work experience is good branding for the company
So, how is offering work experience programmes good branding for your company? Well, if you can sit down and create a really effective and organised programme of work that is genuinely beneficial to the learner, word will soon get round and, eventually, you will have lots of people looking to do work experience with your company. This means you get to choose from the best young talent out there.
Offering quality and beneficial work experience can also have a follow on effect when it comes to recruitment. Your company’s reputation for investing in young people will be right up there and so more people will want to work for your firm. People talk and word of mouth can be a powerful tool when it comes to recruitment because people will recommend you as a good firm to work for.
Benefit 4 – Employers benefit because young people bring a whole new energy and perspective
In a previous article about employees being preset in the boardroom, I said diversity was key to the continued success of companies. Having young people in your workplace doing work experience, even if only for a short while, can contribute to (or even introduce) this diversity to your company.
Young people with little or no experience of the workplace are not a burden but can be a breath of fresh air If you have always tackled some issues from the same angle, a young student or school leaver could offer a completely different perspective. They might not have the practical experience just yet but they can bring a whole new dynamic and energy to your team.
Benefit 5 – Employers benefit from work experience programmes because they no longer have to second guess
For this benefit, it depends on the type of company you are and the service you are offering. But, many companies selling products or offering services need to also try to tap into a younger market, too. This involves discussions with marketing teams trying to second guess what is going to appeal to a younger audience. Well, for a precious few days every so often, this second guessing will not be necessary because your younger audience will be right there in the workplace with you ask them or their contribution.
Benefit 6 – Employers who offer work experience benefit from the knowledge of youth!
As I mentioned in number 4, above, there is a good chance that your student or school leaver is experiencing the workplace for the first time so their hands on knowledge of your field might be lacking for the moment.
However, it doesn’t need me to tell you that companies need to be right on top of advances in IT in order to remain competitive. Today’s students and school leavers have grown up with the technology that you, yourself, might have been on courses to try to understand or perhaps you have sent staff on courses, too. Whilst you may have worked hard to get your head around the fast moving world of technology, much of this will be second nature to your youg work experience assistant.
With social media, for instance, you could pick up some valuable tips for using it more effectively – especially for getting the attention of that younger audience you want to attract. Employers could also benefit from young people offering different online research skills and even more specialised IT skills that could transform the way a part of your company operates.
Your business will not be stagnant or stuck in its ways anymore if you have fresh new talent in the workplace whose ideas you are willing to take on board.
Benefit 7 – Employers benefit from offering work experience because it’s a great recruitment strategy
Yes, if you are looking to attract a younger workforce to your company, then offering work experience programmes is a great way to go about this. And if your student or school leaver proves to be a great catch, why not try and keep hold of them by offering them a permanent role such as an apprenticeship or part time roles whilst they are at university? If you don’t have a large recruitment budget, work experience is a good way to hook this young talent.
Young people are like sponges and come to your workplace having not picked up other habits from working at previous companies. If you can attract them to your firm, then you get the opportunity to mould them into the team you want. This reduces your cost of bringing in more experienced, skilled professionals.
Employers also benefit financially in the recruitment stakes because both you and your student or school leaver can see whether you are good match for each other throughout the work experience programme. This minimises the recruitment risk of taking on the wrong candidate and then having to go through the whole, time consuming and expensive recruitment process again. You have seen for yourself how the young person performs in your workplace so you are not just relying on a CV with GCSE results or other qualifications.
Benefit 8 – Offering work experience benefits your whole industry
Offering work experience opportunities to students and school leavers not only promotes your the company you work for but it also promotes the whole industry you are working in. Many industries in the United Kingdom are facing a skills shortage and also lack a young, dynamic image that draws in young people.
Some industries such as travel and tourism, for example, are much easier to promote than chemical engineering might be. Offering work experience gives young people the opportunity to have a ‘taster session’ of what goes on within your industry.
Also, people feel good about industries and companies that invest in young people so you can also grow your customer base as well as tapping into young talent.
Benefit 9 – Offering work experience helps young people to mature
Whether school leavers or students, young people have barely left the classroom and so, when they do work experience, they tend to mature and are able to make more informed choices about their future career.
Young people who have done a work experience stint are more likely to remain within that industry and, if you are in a position to offer permanent work such as apprenticeships or school leaver programmes, that person is more likely to remain with your company.
Make Work Experience Count For Both You And The Person Doing It
So as you can see, there are numerous benefits to the employer who offers work experience to school leavers and students. However, in order or these benefits to manifest themselves, the work experience programme must also benefit the person undertaking it, too.
Work experience is not about getting young people to wander around the office making cups of tea and coffee for the regular staff. It is not about employers just drafting in a few free staff to cover a busy period. It is not about sitting a young person in the corner of the room while they merely watch what is going on around them, ignored by the rest of the staff.
Having a carefully thought out work experience programme where young people can work on real projects – and even do some of the more mundane tasks, too – means they get a true picture of what it is like to work in your industry and you, as an employer, should get to reap the benefits mentioned above.