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The steps to getting started with Work Experience

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) provide a useful resource for employers, Making work experience work.

A summary of the key steps are described below:

Selecting candidates

Taking on young people for work experience placements can help an employer tap into a wider talent pool and reach individuals from diverse social backgrounds. Follow our top tips to improving the diversity of your work experience candidates:

  • Contact Essex Youth Service and they will discuss the process with you - email [email protected]
  • Contact your local school or college directly to discuss a work experience arrangement. 
  • Be proactive and ‘reach out’ to education providers – more employers are increasing their ‘outreach’ activity, including attending careers fairs, open evenings and school events, as well as hosting assemblies which give them a chance to talk about their industry.
  • Avoid recruiting by ‘who you know’ alone – relying on existing networks and word-of mouth means groups outside existing networks never hear of opportunities. 
  • When choosing who receives a placement, be flexible when considering qualifying criteria, including educational attainment, grades and pre-existing work experience.

Planning the induction

Young people on work experience should receive an induction to the workplace that will help them to integrate quickly and learn about working life. Whether joining a large organisation or an SME, a young person entering the world of work for the first time may not know how it functions and how they should behave.

The induction is an opportunity to:

  • get to know the young person 
  • understand their previous experience
  • talk about the expectations on each side
  • establish the young person’s goals
  • provide space for the young person to ask questions.

Therefore, a good induction should include:

  • An introduction to the organisation, including how the company is structured, and the key people who the individual on work experience will have contact with.
  • A tour of the facilities, including where to get food from inside or outside your building, where the nearest toilets are, first aid facilities and where the fire exits are situated (and any evacuation procedures) as well as health and safety information they need to know (this is a legal requirement)
  • A clear outline of what they will be doing during their time with you – this should also include room to add in the skills or experience the young person is keen to develop
  • A plan or schedule for the individual’s first and possibly second week in the organisation, clearly outlining what they are doing each day (for example, where they will be in the building and who to meet, and so on).

You could also consider asking the young person to send in a CV before they start so you can find out more about them and help them to feel they’re experiencing the real working world.

Devising tasks and creating a work plan

It is important to give the young person a variety of tasks and if possible, rotate them between departments so they get a good insight into the workplace. High quality work experience placements involve ‘trying’ a variety of different roles and tasks in different areas of the business and working with different members of staff.

Supporting the young person

Organisations should ensure there is a dedicated person(s) with ring-fenced time in their work schedule to supervise the young person on work experience. This would be a good development opportunity for an employee who wants to develop their management capability. In addition, where possible a separate mentor or coach should be appointed to support the young person more informally.

Offering quality, supportive work experience is simple if you follow some basic guidelines.

  • Be clear about how the young person will be supported, supervised and mentored during work experience.
  • Assign a ‘buddy’ – this role is key to supporting a young person, therefore a buddy should be someone keen to do the role and who has a friendly, supportive manner.
  • Ensure the young person is introduced to the structure of working life. If it helps, plan a schedule to help them see what they’ll be doing each day.

At the end of the placement

At the end of the work experience placement a meeting with the young person should take place to review how everything went, for both the person on work experience as well as the employer. Some students may have a log or diary which they must
fill in during, and at the end of, their time with an employer. If there’s space to write a comment or feedback, offer to do so.

We recommend that you assess the success of the placement and, if appropriate, offer further support to the individual by agreeing to act as a referee and encouraging the young person to stay in touch.

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