How to make work experience meaningful for young people
Work experience is an opportunity to inspire young people and help shape their future.
But it wasn't always this way. Years ago, work experience was little more than a week of making brews and photocopying – but this doesn’t work for business, and it definitely doesn't work for young people. When done right, work experience can really make a difference. It can inform young people of all the options available to them and even inspire their future career. And it brings fresh ideas and enthusiasm into business – it's a win-win for everyone.
However, the UK Government removed work experience from the national curriculum in 2012 – which hasn’t gone down well. 83% of teenagers and 93% of business leaders think it should be made compulsory again – and we agree! Meaningful work experience really makes a difference, so schools and businesses need to work together to get more students into the workplace. This is even more important in deprived areas as finding appropriate placements for students can be a challenge.
Hopefully the Baker Clause will impact this. Thanks to the Baker Clause, employers and training providers are now allowed into schools to talk about career opportunities. This is a game changer for young people and will hopefully help schools and the Government understand the importance of meaningful work experience.
What makes work experience meaningful?
To make work experience really meaningful, teenagers need to be treated with respect, given real tasks and trusted to do the job well. This will give them a taste of working life and help them learn new skills that aren't taught in the classroom.
- Solving real-life problems and seeing the impact of their work
- Researching market conditions and learning how they affect businesses
- Communicating with different people with different skill sets
- Learning about new technologies and how they're used in the workplace
- Working in different roles to see what they entail on a day-to-day basis
At OneFile, we've recently welcomed 3 work experience students from Oasis Academy, Oldham and planned a week of meaningful activities for them – which was much more than they expected! One of our students, Georgina, said, 'On Sunday night I actually asked my mum how to make a brew because I don’t know how to make one! I don't drink tea myself, so I thought I'd just be making bad cups of tea all week.'
The students worked with different departments on real tasks – from research projects to sales pitches. They then worked with marketing to brainstorm ideas and create their own social media advert – which was Georgina's favourite part, 'I really enjoyed designing an advert. I thought I was a creative person, but I never put my ideas out there as I thought they wouldn't be good enough. But at OneFile, you've taught me that thinking outside the box is a good thing and it's how businesses attract attention.'
And that's what meaningful work experience is all about – inspiring young people, boosting their confidence and giving them an insight into the working world. 'It's had such a big impact on us as we've learnt about a whole new environment which really prepares you for the future.' said Phebe. 'There are also so many lovely people to meet – we didn't expect that. Each department is like a little family within the bigger family. We've felt really welcome.'
Welcoming young people into your business and trusting them to do a job well is really important. It'll boost their self-esteem and make them feel like a real member of the team. At OneFile, we gave our 3 students their own desks, laptops and logins to OneFile's learning software. With OneFile, they could see what tasks they had set, manage their workflow and upload evidence of their learning. This gave the students autonomy and helped them feel like a trusted part of the team. Sian said, 'This experience has taught me so so much and I'll take away so much. I've had a truly amazing time and have found out so many interesting things.'
Having a positive, meaningful experience makes a huge difference for young people. It's often their first taste of the working world and can influence what direction they take in the future.
If you're planning work experience activities, download our checklist to make sure they're meaningful and will have a positive impact on your young people.
This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.