For young people, their experience in the workplace is vital for getting them into employment. This is as true for graduates as it is for those who go straight into work from school. Recent research has found that contact with employers makes the world of difference in employability for young people.
Offering work experience can feel a bit daunting…
Offering a work experience placement can feel a bit daunting. We completely understand that, but it’s such a rewarding experience for both sides. We are a small web technology business and have been offering work experience placements since the day we started and have learnt a lot along the way on how best to structure the placement.
The secret to success
The secret to our work experience success is to have a well thought through plan to ensure that the student gets the very best from their time with you and that your normal day to day businesses isn’t disrupted. Here are our top tips:
Interview the prospective work placement student to ensure that the right expectations are set on both sides.
Start the week with the student shadowing a member of your team. This will allow them to see first hand what goes on, get them talking to someone and grow their knowledge from the outset. It makes them feel welcome and part of the team. This is a great opportunity for one your more junior members of your team to mentor the work experience student – growing their experience too!
Give them a project to work on for the duration of their time with you. We always give them something ‘real’, but not business critical. We look for something that is current and useful for both them and our business, so that they feel that they are making a real impact with their efforts. In the past we’ve had students investigating a specific piece of new and fun technology for us and presenting their findings to the whole team. We’ve also given students the opportunity to build their own websites which we’ve then hosted on our server so that they can go back to college and access their site.
Set aside time to talk about both careers and developing employability skills. We cover the different types of jobs and career paths in our industry and discuss what is interesting for them. We also talk to them about their personal skills and help them to establish where there are matches between the skills that they have and the skills that they need.
Ask the student to give a reflection of their work experience, summarising what they did and what they learned. One recent placement student said:
“All the people were very friendly and happy to answer my questions and I learnt a lot so it was very successful experience”
He went on to say “I gained skills not only in technology and new programming languages, but I also learnt some basic skills in business as well as learning what it’s like to apply programming (which can be very theoretical) in a real-life environment. It was also very useful to see how the team collaborated.”
How do we benefit?
We genuinely enjoy the thought that we are helping an individual to gain some real life work experience, develop their employability skills and add some gems to their CV. We love inspiring them with our industry, and, as we’ve mentioned in our top tips, it can be a great opportunity for the younger members of our team to undertake some mentoring.
Every business has something to offer a work experience student. It’s just about choosing the right time and being prepared up front. Go on, help open that very first door for the next generation…
If you are interested in setting up some work experience, or want more advice, visit the Reciprocate resource bank