Why you should offer students work experience

Work experience has changed: it isn’t just about having someone in to make the tea and do some photocopying any more.

Increasingly, employers and teachers see it as a vital step in every student’s education to help them make the transition to employment. In a 2014 survey,66% of employers said work experience was a critical or significant factor in recruiting.

But they can be more reluctant when it comes to offering placements. After all, it takes an investment of time and energy to make sure a young person has plenty to do and really learns something about your industry.

What companies might not know is how far-reaching the benefits of work experience can be for them. Here are some ways it can help your business meet its goals.

Raising your profile in the community

Many businesses draw their customers from their local community, so it’s important to them that they are seen supporting young people in preparing for careers.

Research on the experiences of employers offering work experience found that they valued the opportunity to offer a community service. “It helps give the company good standing in the community,” one told researchers. “We’re a major employer

in this area. We want to give back to the community,” said another.

Developing your staff

You see your job in a whole new way when you have to explain it to someone else. Bringing in work experience students is a great way to let staff gain a new perspective on their role by learning how to be a mentor.

A study by the Corporation of London on the business case for volunteering found that offering work experience gives staff a chance to develop their communication skills, their ability to coach and advise, their adaptability skills and their ability to influence and persuade.

Getting fresh ideas

Every company is trying to understand the trends and tastes of a new generation, to prepare themselves for shifts in the market. That goes double in industries affected by fast-moving technology.

Work experience students can make an instant contribution by offering their perspectives. “Our young partners bring so many benefits to the business. They help us adapt quickly to the latest trends and give us insights into new markets,” says Charlie Mayfield at John Lewis.

Expanding the talent pool

Recruitment processes can get stale, drawing in the same kind of candidates year after year. Work experience offers a chance to cast your net wider for forward-thinking companies that recognise that you have to search everywhere for top talent.

“We need to think about bringing 16- and 18-year-olds into our organisation. It’s a talent issue,” says Nestle’s Jo Ward. “We need to get the right people and we don’t want to miss out on appealing to a broader section of the community.”

Making recruitment less risky

Interview processes only tell you so much. But by using work experience as a recruitment pipeline, you can see a candidate work with your existing staff over a whole week. Perhaps that’s why 85% of employers who offer work experience use it for recruitment.

“Work experience is the most popular way for employers to bring young people into their organisation, as they can help employers to ‘try before they buy’,” says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

If you could offer a work experience placement, please fill in our form here to find out more.