How to maximise work experience

Dec 5, 2019 | Apprentices & school leaver

Simon Reichwald of MyKindaFuture and ISE board member shares employer insights on running successful work experience programmes.

MyKindaFuture helps employers attract, recruit and retain underrepresented talent groups. Work experience can play an important part in this process. We recently invited top student employers Cisco, Clifford Chance, Tata Consultancy Services and Dentsu Aegis Network, with the employer organisation Movement to Work, to an event where they shared their insights for running successful work experience programmes.

One of the key lessons shared at the event was that programmes can no longer simply be run because ‘they always have been’, or ‘it is the right thing to do’. Attendees argued that the majority of UK employers see work experience as much more than this; it’s the perfect platform to address skills gaps, grow talent pools, combat any resourcing and diversity challenges, increase brand awareness, and grow employee engagement.

Not surprisingly, given its critical role, another important consideration is getting the right structure for the work experience programme. Delegates argued that companies should include activities that deliver a specific outcome if they are to engage people. Employers must also offer genuine exposure to the entire business, at both a senior and entry level, so that candidates can understand and envisage potential future roles.

Creating an agile and flexible programme, which can be delivered in multiple locations, was another recommendation, not least because it provides UK businesses with access to a more diverse range of people. By incorporating taster days, which act as an effective feeder, decision makers are able to ensure the top talent is identified and progressed into the longer formats.

Many argued that organisations should also engage their internal team so that they are equipped to support the business in the delivery of the programme. Some suggested that the use of mentors can assist with this delivery and help minimise the drain on the wider internal team’s time, which in turn can help secure senior stakeholder buy-in.

When considering what makes a good work experience programme, the discussion identified numerous factors that need to be kept in mind. All schemes must raise people’s confidence, knowledge and understanding of the company’s sector, as well as encouraging their aspirations. Businesses must cater to a diverse audience, including key, underrepresented groups, such as female students and BAME candidates.
When looking to implement a successful work experience strategy, it is also important to consider measurement. Sense check content with current and former participants to ensure it is still relevant and that it increases engagement, plus measure the social impact that the programme is having.

The final takeaway from the event was that UK businesses should engage schools, colleges and parents if they’re to attract the best talent to their programmes, and then retain it.

Being transparent is key; young people must know what to expect from the work experience. Building brand awareness is also vital; companies that are better known by both young people and their parents are much more likely to attract the right candidates.

Find out more about MyKindaFuture
For data read ISE’s Internships Survey

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