What do students want from work experience?

Mar 1, 2022 | Work experience/internships

Latest student survey findings inform Uptree’s advice on what employers can do to improve work experience.

Uptree, the professional network connecting young people and employers, recently published its 2022 New Year Student Survey. The survey features insights from students aged 16-21.

The findings help employers to understand what students want from work experience events and what they can do to maintain accessibility and inclusivity.


5 touch points for employers to consider when planning work experience

1. Values and culture

Students were asked which two factors were most important when evaluating the values and culture of an employer. They were mostly interested in meeting a diverse group of people from the company (41%) and hearing from role models from a similar background (30%).

Uptree encourages employers to showcase their values and culture across the entirety of their work experience events, including the people involved. Having motivational speakers from different backgrounds can really help students in relating to the business and visualising their career journey.

All literature output around recruitment and promoting a work experience event should remain inclusive and engaging. For example, it is important to avoid using gendered language in job descriptions as it can exclude potential candidates.


2. Event format

When considering the format of a work experience event, it’s important to consider whether they should be run online or in-person.

The majority of students voted that they would prefer in-person events (46%).

In-person events give students a glimpse into a company’s work culture and build their confidence when talking to professionals in a face-to-face setting whilst also forming expectations for office life.

After two years of remote working, consider how young people were impacted by the pandemic and how refreshing an in-person event may be. In comparison to virtual events, interacting in-person gives students a chance to develop their independence and maturity.

Whilst only 12% of students from the survey indicated that they would prefer solely online events, 42% stated that they would choose a mix.

It is vital to consider the students’ working conditions when planning work experience to ensure the event is accessible. Remember that a quiet and comfortable space to work from at home is a luxury for many, meaning in-person events can provide the structure and focus that young people need

Thinking carefully about the format of work experience events could save students from unnecessary screen fatigue, increase engagement and make your induction and training programmes more effective.

Events that are information heavy with little employer engagement or audience involvement are often best kept online.


3. Content and resources

The content of a work experience event can play a big part in a company’s reputation amongst young talent. Having a fantastic work culture is one thing, but how it is showcased can determine whether students feel engaged and interested.

Maintaining interactivity and avoiding long presentations is key. For some students, a work experience day could be their first introduction to a professional environment. Never assume that they know the obvious.

When considering content, the survey showed that students wish to hear about the opportunities on offer (29%), what each role is like (29%) and examples of experiences from apprentices, graduates and entry-level staff members (20%).

This could be communicated by having a range of volunteers at the event who can be on hand to interact with students and discuss their experiences.

Following an event, having resources or next steps available for students to use is a great way to cement their knowledge of what their journey into a company may look like.

Students voted for the top three resources they would like to receive following work experience:

  • Next steps and how to apply for the role (29%)
  • Follow up reading/PDF of key takeaways (23%)
  • Invitation to an application-focused masterclass (17%)

4. Pathways

When considering the organisation of a work experience event, companies should ensure that their online careers resources are up to date.

Much of the lack of knowledge around alternative career options, such as apprenticeships, can be attributed to the lack of resources available to young people. Nearly half (45%) of students rated their knowledge of apprenticeships below ‘good’.

It is important to educate young people on available schemes that may help develop their career knowledge when comparing against alternatives such as university.

Students tend to research and begin to form opinions about a company before a work experience event. Uptree’s advice to companies is to highlight any internship schemes, apprenticeships and integrated degree programmes in their early careers outreach, through  their website, social media and online resources, ensuring content is accurate and deadlines are clear.

Students voted on what would help their knowledge of apprenticeships:

  • Hearing from apprentices themselves (22%)
  • Understanding the work/study split (18%)
  • The application process (17%)
  • Information about qualifications (16%)
  • Difference between university and apprenticeships (10%)
  • When to start applying (11%)

5. Off-putting factors

It is worth considering what may put students off from applying to work experience events.  Offering solutions will alleviate their worries and build their confidence to attend.

Employers should make an extra effort to maintain awareness of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, ensuring to take into account their social and financial circumstances.

Distance to events can influence the confidence of some students, particularly when they are required to travel far, as evidenced by 28% of respondents.

Not all young people will be street-wise or familiar with the area of the event, so employers should consider offering any travel advice where possible. This will not only help with finding the event but also their safety.

Students also voted that the cost of travel (26%) may put them off.

For many young people, money can be a limiting factor, therefore it is good to maintain an awareness of any expenses that may occur when attending an event, such as lunch or train fares. Employers should look into funding these expenses, if possible.


Concluding tips

As a work experience provider, the ultimate goal is to maintain student engagement before, during and after a company event, building on your existing talent pipeline from the root.

Companies should take into account their values, event format, the content within the event, how informative their pathways into the business are and any factors that may put students off.

Here are some concluding tips from Uptree:

  • Prioritise offering in-person work experience opportunities where possible
  • Place great importance on conveying your company values and culture
  • Raise awareness of any alternative routes into the company, e.g. apprenticeships or internship programmes
  • Consider the impression you give students and showcase the ways your company is inclusive
  • Offer some useful resources following an event that will maintain student engagement such as ‘next steps’

Read more insight and advice on work experience


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