Work Experience

illume: Feature in Focus

Why is work experience so important for students?
Did you know lack of experience is the number one reason employers turn young job applicants away?*

As you know, some ‘real world’ experience can add considerable clout to a student’s CV, and if they’re thinking of applying to uni, some professional credibility will look great on their UCAS personal statement.

Contrary to what your students may think, work experience isn’t about making the tea and photocopying! In fact, there are charters out there that are reinventing work to ensure young people are getting genuine value and real life skills from their placements. The Skills for Stroud Work Experience Charter was developed by Stroud District Council to set the standard for work placements for young people in the area. The scheme provides businesses, schools, and colleges with a quality mark of accreditation to ensure their work experience programmes genuinely prepare young people for the world of work. It is based on principles developed by the Chartered Institute of Personal and Development (CIPD), and guidelines from the Association of Colleges.

29% of employers say experience is critical when recruiting young people, and a further 45% say it is significant.*

In other countries, gaining experience of the workplace while at school is much more commonplace. For example, in Australia and the Netherlands – both of which have low rates of youth employment – it is normal for work experience to be integrated into education.

Work may be the last thing they want to think about, but encourage your students to use their school holidays off to do something productive, which will pay dividends later on. In the recent report

from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), employers stated that work experience was, in most cases, more or as important to them as GSCEs in maths and English when they were recruiting.

Our top five tips for work experience success:

  1. Do something that interests you. If you want to pursue a career in journalism, for example, try to get work experience at a paper or magazine. In many cases, employers want to be approached so don’t be afraid to contact your local businesses to see if they have opportunities available.
  2. Research the company before you go. Make sure you know who you are reporting to, what the company does, its aims and values, and who its customers are.
  3. Make a note of the skills you learn. This will help when writing your CV or UCAS personal statement. It’ll be useful to demonstrate to universities and potential employers in the future how well you can manage your time, communicate, and work with others.
  4. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask relevant questions as it can often show you are interested in the company and keen to learn more.
  5. Follow up with a thank you note. Keep in contact with the organisation/company following your work experience. You never know, there may be further opportunities available in the future.

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*Source: UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)

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