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How can we make Work Experience Fit for Purpose?

It was a lively debate in a packed room at the CBI last month as we launched the research, commissioned by Workfinder and written by    LKMco, about Work Experience. It’s a huge contribution to an important debate, which sets out brilliantly how work experience should be re-structured.

Workfinder set a challenge: What if we were all to work together to make it fit for purpose?   Boy, did the folks in the room rise to that challenge! 

It’s fixable. The sums add up. There are 7.2 million 16-24 year-olds in the UK and 17.5 million employees in businesses with more than 5 staff. As our esteemed guest The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London, Peter Estlin pointed out, JUST THREE HOURS supporting work experience by each employee PER YEAR would give every young person 100 hours of experience in the workplace that could just change the course of their lives.

Here are our Top 3 take-outs from today:

1. We pour knowledge into young people but just as important is  the ability to apply that, to build character, to be creative…

As fellow panellist John Cope, CBI said so well, work experience is      crucial for young people but just as important to the economy because work experience in education is a driver for productivity, essential for growth and core to employability.

The other side of that is that social injustice is a tangible cost to both the young person and business as they try to find their feet. We need a solution that is accessible to all, not just those with social networks.  

Lola Bejide of the Soluman Consultancy added that young people often aren’t aware of what they want to do. What they don’t need is to come out of a placement saying ‘that’s a week of my life I won’t get back’ to everyone, damaging local business reputation in the process!

2. Together, we need to smash through the barriers that stop young     people  finding meaningful work experience in a variety of places…

Back to the challenge. What if we collaborated to make it easy for young people – especially those who live in rural areas or have special needs – to find what they love. The great news is that we already do (with the CBI, FSB and many more) but we have to supercharge it!

The report includes great examples from Ted Baker, Kidzania, Blippar and others. You will also find lots of case studies on our website Workfinder showcasing the practical ways companies are making the experience truly meaningful.  

But we have to be creative. I’m excited by innovative approaches by Wayra, Cambridge Launchpad and Barclays who act as collaborators in their local communities, gathering smaller businesses into the fold and offering rich and varied experiences for young people to explore.

3. How do we reduce the burden on teachers to make it happen…?

Especially at this time of year, we are mindful of the pressure on      teachers and leadership teams in schools.  

The report is clear that placements don’t have to be 1:1. In fact, it is preferable for young people to attend in small groups. It is also better to have placements take place over several weeks, rather than in blocks of 1-2 weeks, and spread out over the school year. This feels more manageable and employees can reach out to local schools to help.

We are all agreed that the Gatsby Benchmarks provide guidelines and measures we can all get behind. That’s why we build them into our recommendation engine at Workfinder, as we will the findings from this research.

At Workfinder, we are focused on the ways in which technology can provide solutions and disrupt the age-old methods that hold us back.

Putting Workfinder in the hands of young people is the best way we can think of to broker the ground between employers & educators and accelerate the change we need to make.

PLEASE read the research from Will Millard and the team at LKMco, which has been a year in development.

It’s easy – for business, for educators and for young people.

Read the research paper here