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I have often wondered why I am so engaged in supporting students from Schools, Colleges and University with work experience/placements initiatives and why other employers are not.

I mainly believe that it is due to the fact that employers don’t realise the importance and value it brings to both the learners and themselves.

Offering work experience and placement opportunities has been an activity that I have been involved in for a long time. Relationships have been built with local schools, colleges and universities over the years in supporting their work experience campaigns. These relationships do take time and over the years, the work experience teams get to understand the providers better and therefore are able to offer the placement to individuals best matched to the employer. This has numerous advantages to both the employer and the student.

The employer has the confidence in knowing that:

  • the student is interested in the type of work placement being offered,
  • can tailor the placement offering accordingly with a framework that supports the students’ needs within the work environment,
  • provides the opportunity to engage with the student better as you know their interests.

For the students, they have the comfort of knowing that they will:

  • learn from an employer who is best matched to their experience needs,
  • have a framework in place to support them,
  • make more informed choices about their next steps in their choice of work they would like to pursue as a career.

It has always been felt that we employers need to give something back to the learner student community and this is the best manner in which both the student and employer can benefit. It helps the future economy by helping prepare students for the world of work.

Engagement helps to narrow the skills gap, especially in the Digital and STEM subjects. The normal process followed by myself is by encouraging the student to submit their CV with a covering letter. This is probably the first occasion that they have had to do in their lives for some of them. This is where I believe the true essence of work experience begins.

Having a young student within the business provides us with several benefits:

  • The ability to test out our coaching and mentoring skills. This enables some of our staff in practicing their supervisory skills. This in turn I note does boost their morale.
  • The students bring creativity and innovation to the business. When looking at a challenge, they have an “out of the box” thinking on the subject matter as they have no preconceived ideas. They are able to expand themselves without constraints. It adds diversity to the business.
  • An extra pair of hands in the business to support some of the activities.
  • It does not cost us anything. We do however in return give them valuable experience and at the end of the period, they receive a thank you gift which I normally relate to their time spent in the workplace.
  • It can form part of the recruitment strategy the business has. It allows me as the employer to assess the student with a view to a permanent role in the future.

There are a wide variety of work placement options for which I am able to provide work experience and placement projects. From schools, it is the one-week work experience that all 15 year old have to undertake. From college, it is the two-week, project based or the T-level 45-day work experience. University tends to be a longer 4-to-12-week placement to include a project.

I found that students spending a longer period within the business environment experience a wider exposure to the business and receive enriched learning from their placement. The new T-levels, where the student spends 45 day within a business, are therefore in my opinion a great option for both learners and employers.

Employers new to work experience need to have a structure in place to support the student. The schools and colleges are well versed in organising health and safety and other consent forms. Business insurance needs to be reviewed to ensure you are able to have a student in your workplace. Typically, I have found that there is no added cost if at all only a few pounds.

Once I receive a CV and covering letter from the education establishment or the student, like any other application for a job, I interview the student which forms part of their work experience. Feedback is either provided immediately after the interview on how they can improve and also on what they did well.

Having an induction like any other new starter is a must. This helps the student feel that they are part of the organisation and also provides them with an insight into what to expect with a real job. It enables the organisation to also meets its legal requirements for Health & Safety.

The school, college or university provide guidance on what to write after each day of the work experience, however, I always insist on a daybook where they take notes on what they have learnt.

At the end of the work experience period, I encourage all students to provide the team and myself with a short presentation of their learning and time within the business. This allows them to gain presentation and communication skills within a working environment.

Work experience placements are one of the great ways we employers can support our younger generation and I feel that the only way we can maintain an enriched skills pool is by participating in these work experience programs.

At Altimex Ltd, we have had students from schools, colleges and universities on a one week work experience all the way to a 6 month project placement. More recently we have been involved with providing virtual work experience using a model developed in-house.

Davinder Lotay
Published on LinkedIn