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Supporting the next generation: why offering work experience benefits employers

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By Vickie Cannam, Careers Lead at Thomas Keble School

At school many of us will have undertaken work experience, getting the opportunity to try out a job and see whether it would suit us in the future.

However, as adults, offering these experiences can seem onerous and the benefits to employers are often overlooked.

Hosting work experience students is a fantastic opportunity to nurture future talent, and it is often the case that students will apply to your company for an apprenticeship or job after leaving school if they have had a positive experience previously, giving you the chance to secure strong candidates ahead of the competition.

At a careers event last term, I spoke to a local employer who took on one of our students for work experience when he was 15 and that student is still working for him now in his forties, having worked his way up to second-in-
command.

The week of work experience gave this employer the chance to assess the
student’s capabilities over an extended period of time, so he knew the student was a good fit for the company before he applied or was interviewed.

Even if you don’t secure an employee for a future full-time role like this, you may find a fantastic weekend or seasonal assistant whilst the student is at college or university without the need to advertise or interview.

Students can also benefit your company by bringing a fresh perspective to what you’re already doing. Perhaps developing or maintaining a social media presence isn’t your strongest area: with many new apps becoming popular all the time, it can be hard to keep up.

Often these are aspects that teenagers are confident with, and they could help you to utilise this to increase your brand awareness.

Even if you are competent in these areas, offering work experience improves the profile of companies in the local community, giving families a positive impression and making them more likely to recommend you to others.

In return, you can offer the student support with developing key skills and attitudes that employers desire, such as confidence, communication, resilience and problem-solving, to ensure the next generation of workforce in your industry can perform better once recruited.

There are also benefits to your employees through giving them the opportunity to develop mentoring and leadership skills.

Perhaps one member of staff could be given the responsibility to develop a work experience programme giving students the chance to experience different departments or roles in the company, and to supervise students whilst
on placement.

It also sends a positive message to all employees about your values as an
employer if you are engaged in supporting schools.

But what about all the insurance and paperwork? Are there financial drawbacks? These are the main concerns employers often have when our students ask for the opportunity to work with them.

Work experience is completely free – students are required to participate on a
voluntary basis, so there are no extra wages to worry about. Insurance is often already in place, as HSE state “your existing employers’ liability insurance policy will cover work placements provided your insurer is a member of the Association of British Insurers, or Lloyds, so there is no need for you to obtain any additional employer’s liability insurance if you take on work experience students” and this is regardless of age, even if your company
usually only hires over-18s. Sometimes there may be extra health and safety checks depending on risk, but these will be organised by the school and/or an external specialist company at no cost to the employer.

It is a given that most employers would prefer to employ a candidate with experience over qualifications alone, but unless we are willing to offer these experiences, students will struggle when applying for jobs in the future. Work experience benefits all parties: students gain an insight into a career they may or may not have already considered, discover if the industry is right for them, and develop key skills and attributes needed to be a valuable future employee, and employers get the opportunity to nurture future talent and to help the
future economy by encouraging young people into their industry whilst developing the skills of their current employees and gaining an increased profile in the local community.

Schools have seen a huge decrease in the number of employers willing to take on students this year as a result of the pandemic, however now is the time to begin offering these opportunities again to help address the national skills shortages we have, especially in industries such as IT, STEM, performing arts, healthcare and veterinary care.

If you would be interested in hosting one of our Year 10 students for work experience, please contact me at vcannam@thomaskeble.gloucs.sch.uk. Our work experience week this academic year will be the week commencing 17 th July 2023, although students begin applying for placements from mid-September onwards.

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