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Why work experience is win-win for both employers and students

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Allen Associates is a real advocate of work experience and sees clear benefits for businesses as well as the individuals involved. But not everyone feels that way. A UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) report found that one in five employers say that nothing could persuade them to offer work experience, even though 66% of businesses say experience is critical when recruiting new staff.

Kate Allen, managing director at Allen Associates, discusses the issues.

The alarming findings of this report may go some way towards explaining why unemployment for the youngest workers remains stubbornly high despite unemployment being at an all-time low. Work experience can help change this and although on the face of it, many businesses may regard it as a hassle, the reality is that work experience often has lasting positive impacts for both parties.

Placements while studying, whether at school, college, university, or later in life, are a key way to open individuals’ eyes to the world of work and give them a genuine insight into a career path that they may have been considering. It could help them to make a more informed choice and if it is within a competitive industry, this could be a crucial stepping stone for them.

While the benefits for individuals are generally well understood, it would be good to see more businesses considering how work placements could contribute to their corporate social responsibility and community engagement initiatives. If every business forged links with at least one local school or college it would go a long way towards creating the skilled workers of the future.

There are many different types of work experience that you can offer as set out in this handy guide from Reciprocate – the responsible business group set up by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.
Many of the UK’s top companies have post-GCSE work experience programmes in place although understandably, for smaller companies, it can be more of a challenge. But it is a worthwhile one and can be a win-win for all parties. Just look at these benefits:

  • Raising your profile – being known as a business that offers work experience opportunities could raise the profile of your business and improve brand loyalty
  • Developing employees – developing your employees by getting them involved and providing potential mentoring or management opportunities which help them grow their own skills and experiences
  • Get a new perspective and ideas – young people often bring fresh ideas and approaches and can give you alternative market insights
  • Grow your own pool of talent – get access to the up and coming talent of the future during a time when we are currently experiencing a skills shortage
  • They are fresh from the classroom and eager to learn!

If you are put off offering work experience because of lack of time and resources you should be reassured that most challenges can be overcome with good communication, an understanding of the process and what’s involved, and having realistic expectations.

Linking up with a school or college is a good start. They can help to make everything much easier, as they can advise you on the process and tell you about the students.
Work experience is about much more than tea and filing!

Work experience is about giving people the practical skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make informed choices about their future and preparing them for the world of work.

We’re proud to support several work experience initiatives in the county including Oxford Business and Media School’s call for businesses to offer work experience to its almost-qualified PAs and executive assistants and Brookes University’s appeal for HR placements for its international students. We’re also supporting the work experience initiatives in place at the Reciprocate responsible business group, hosted by Oxfordshire Community Foundation.

Reciprocate is a group of businesses that are working together to become more effective and strategic in the way they support their local community, and we’re one of its founding members.  Reciprocate is currently promoting better and more accessible work experience opportunities, with members sharing their expertise in the form of a best-practice handbook that gives step-by-step guidance on how to run a work experience placement. This can be downloaded here.

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If you’d like to discuss any of these issues, please contact me at

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