Making work experience work

I bet every one of you reading this is grateful to someone who believed in you and took a chance to get you the experience you needed to move your career forward – whatever stage it was at.  Work experience placements are an excellent way for us all to repay the favour and offer a chance to people when they need it.

Setting the standard

As a part of the City & Guilds Group, it’s particularly important for us to engage in skills development and help young people into work. Research conducted by the Group  shows that young people are not always given enough information to make choices about the first steps of their careers – whether that’s choosing a path of study, undertaking skills training or getting into a job for the first time. We aim to do something about that - to empower the next generation to make informed decisions. So I have challenged my own team at Kineo to ‘walk the talk’ on providing work experience.

It’s easy for one to say the time or resources aren’t available to do this. But it’s important both for the future workforce and for our businesses that we do prioritise it.

Good for your business

The chance to give something back is, of course, incentive enough to get started. But there can be benefits for you and your business too. If you’re concerned about how to attract the next generation of workers into your industry, reaching out at the work experience stage is a valuable way to raise awareness.

Having a cohort of young people arriving in the business is a good chance to examine and refine your onboarding process. Does it get people up and running quickly? Is it friendly for people new to the world of work, or to your industry?

You will also create valuable opportunities for members of your team to mentor, train and support someone. Use it as a chance to develop leadership and management skills in-house.

Getting it right

Of course, this is not just about making up the numbers or fulfilling a business pledge: we must provide a high-quality experience and make sure that each person we work with has a quality and meaningful placement.

Here are a few of my tips for how we can all provide a genuinely useful framework for work experience – for those on work experience and for your existing team.

  • Align with business objectives
    Make the placement and the work involved meaningful for everyone involved 

  • Conduct a proper interview
    It’s more about practice than selection and gives you a chance to provide useful feedback

  • After the interview, ask them to learn about the business before starting
    This will provide some context from the outset and will give you an early idea of how committed they are to learning and developing on the job

  • Run the placement as projects
    Rather than a series of unconnected tasks, give them the experience of working on their own project with goals and objectives as they would in a permanent job

  • Make yourself available for personal support
    It’s not a great experience if they’re sitting alone all day with no feedback or interaction

  • Assign a specific mentor
    Who can provide information, guidance and will lead by example in terms of workplace behaviour

  • Do something social
    It’s great being part of a team!

  • Debrief properly
    Review against objectives, talk about transferrable skills and help structure an entry on their CV.

Many of us are in a position to offer work experience placements – so let's get to it!  You’ll not only help a young person into work, but get benefits for yourself and the business too -extra resource, fresh ideas and the chance to develop mentoring skills.

And remember, being a leader isn’t about your job title or role – it’s about showing who you are and using your skills to help others.  It’s our duty and privilege as leaders to develop people – and we must do so.

Find out more about the City & Guilds Group’s youth engagement programmes

Want to talk to us about building great onboarding programmes? Get in touch.

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