The government’s National Careers Strategy states that each young person should have first-hand experiences of the workplace through visits, work shadowing and/or work experience. Those who are able to access such opportunities will be better placed to make informed decisions about their future, using what they’ve learnt as a guide to developing their career of choice. 

Young people with a support network of family and friends who work in a professional environment have a good chance of securing these kind of opportunities and gaining support along the way. But with Britain’s leading graduate schemes being dominated by privately educated young people, how do those without the connections to the professional world begin their career? How do young people from disadvantaged backgrounds gain the same exposure to the business world?

For someone without experience of work, securing that first role is seemingly impossible in today’s society, unless you have existing connections to help you get your foot in the door.

A survey conducted in 2018 by the Confederation of British Industry found that almost half of young people (aged 17-23) do not feel prepared for the world of work and a quarter are unsure of how to access careers information. These troubling statistics outline a need for stronger interactions between employers and young people to ensure the next generation can develop the necessary knowledge and skills for success outside the classroom.

Unsure of what life inside a professional office is like, work experience placements can provide a momentous opportunity for young people looking to take their first step on the career ladder. Those with a hunger and passion to learn will find work experience provides an opportunity to take the skills they’ve gained in the classroom and apply them in a business setting, helping them to become work-ready.

Employers are integral to great careers advice and with 80% stating that work experience on a CV is essential (IScreenYouScreen, 2018), more should be done to ensure employers play an important role in educating and providing development opportunities for the future workforce. With the right structure in place they can have a positive impact on young people in need of support, helping them in the ever-challenging transition from education to employment.  

Setting up a work experience scheme doesn’t need to take an endless amount of time and resources. We’ve worked with a number of businesses to support them with creating a work experience structure so that they can focus on the most important aspect – introducing young people to their company.

This summer a number of businesses have provided work experience opportunities for our young people, helping them gain insight into a particular profession. We’ve worked with , Charles Russell Speechlys, National Audit OfficeRBSReed Smith and Sidley Austin, organisations who are keen to provide valuable development opportunities for individuals who may one day be part of their sector’s workforce.  

Diana, a student who completed a week of work experience with Sidley Austin explains what she gained from the placement:

During the Sidley Austin Work Experience, I got to shadow different people who worked in various areas of law, including a number of partners and lawyers. I had the opportunity to complete real tasks – such as drafting a report and conducting research about Persons of Significant Controls, which is about finding out who are the most significant shareholders at different companies. I also drafted an email to a lawyer about a live case. The placement has strengthened my belief that I can work at a top City firm.”

Sumaiya, who gained work experience at Charles Russell Speechlys, said:

My placement taught me about being resilient. Everyone goes through hardships and battles, but it’s about not giving up, learning and pursuing harder. I now know what skills are crucial in terms of first impressions, being able to communicate and creating conversation.”

A student who gains exposure to the professional world can use the experience gained as a springboard to other career opportunities. Whilst it’s unlikely an individual will go from a work experience placement to a full time role, the skills and knowledge gained will be taken forward and enhanced in the years to come, putting them in a much better position to achieve their full career potential.

If you’re a London employer looking for support in developing a work experience offering, we’d love to hear from you! Please email [email protected]