Student work experience helps refresh the talent pipeline
Tom Brooks

4 minutes

Student work experience helps refresh the talent pipeline

Why is work experience important for school aged students to ensure there is fresh new talent in the pipeline?

According to a recent survey by UCAS, as many as two thirds of employers prioritise job applicants that possess relevant work experience, stating that it is an indication that they are prepared for the role. However, for students just coming out of education – whether that’s at school, college, or university level - they will have spent their time to date in an academic environment. They will potentially possess none of the desired experience in a work environment or relevant role, which is where work experience can be invaluable.

Work experience is a popular way to learn new skills, try out careers a student is interested in, and gain invaluable hands-on experience. Many universities and colleges include it as part of a course, but work experience at school level is equally important.

It is during school that many young people decide on a career path, however vague the direction. Impressions they have of a career second hand or through TV, films or books might be inaccurate and not give them the full picture, which is why work experience is important for school-aged students.

Recently, we welcomed Zia, a school-aged work experience student, who joined us for a week to expand her knowledge of the ‘working world’.

Zia is a GCSE student at a secondary school in Hatfield. She is learning and exploring possible career options for the future but is interested in design and technology. She is passionate about video games as well as reading books. In her spare time, she usually revises/goes over school material that she has learnt and goes out with friends and family.

We’ve asked her for Zia’s input:

Question: Why is work experience important for students who are still at school?

Zia: Work experience is a fantastic opportunity for students who are still in secondary school as it allows them to have a taste of what life in a workplace is like. Working with others in an unfamiliar environment can help students develop their teamwork skills as well as their confidence.

Allowing students to do this before getting a real job prepares them for the expectations they need to meet in the workplace and gives them a chance to explore different fields of work; which will help them decide what they would like to be in the future. Employers will also be more inclined to hire someone who has work experience as they are familiar with the work environment and know what to expect.

I believe work experience is a chance for school kids to understand what life is like outside of school, since we will be able to communicate with people who we do not know and get out of our comfort zone. Some people will also experience the commute to their workplace which allows them to experience an even more realistic work life.

Question: What have you been hoping to get out of experience in the workplace?

Zia: During my time at Guidant Global, I am working in the Marketing department and would love to learn more about what it entails. I have always been interested in Marketing and by doing my work experience here, I am hoping to learn about the several types of skills needed for companies to run successfully.

Additionally, I would love to learn about the different software that is used to create websites and all the behind-the-scenes processes of making a successful merchandise, websites, blogs and more! Before coming here, I was not sure what was involved in marketing but as I continue to do tasks I have been set, I have developed my knowledge of what marketing is and the aspects it includes. Some of the tasks include making/editing social media posts for Guidant Global by using different editing apps and tools and writing this very blog!

Question: How do you think having work experience students is good for employers?

Zia: Employers allowing students to work at their company for work experience gives them the chance to have new, fresh ideas from an outsider's point of view. Having students help with innovative ideas and initiatives for the business can bring diversity to the business, especially if there are no restraints on the student's creativity. Employers are also able to practise their mentoring skills and supervisory skills.

Students are able to help with any task you give them - within their ability range - so having an extra pair of hands can help greatly and take some stress off of the employer.

Question: How can employers provide the best possible work experience placement?

Zia: To provide an amazing, enjoyable work experience placement, employers should be very cheerful and nice to the students as they could be nervous about working there, especially if it is their first day.

If the student is struggling on a task they have been given, employers should try to re-explain it, in a different way, so the task becomes clearer for them and while doing so the employer should remain calm/respectful since the student may be finding it challenging.

Students should be treated as if they were a regular employee but also understand that they may not be as experienced, which is why they are provided with added supervision.