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Moving from 'work experience' to 'work inspiration'

Experts believe we should move from a model of work experience to 'work inspiration' to help young people into the world of work.

Only one-in-four employers offer work experience. Why? According to research from UKCES, common reasons (or excuses) for not offering work experience include ‘we have no suitable roles’ (cited by 37% of businesses not offering placements), ‘no one has approached us’ (20%) and ‘we do not have the time or resource to manage it’ (16%).

UKCES CEO Michael Davis says much of this is down to the “work experience stereotype” of “two weeks in June”. He calls for the concept to move from work experience to “work inspiration”. “We should be trying to inspire young people about the world of work, and that can take many forms,” he adds.

In response to the need for more “work inspiration”, National Grid has launched Careers Lab, an initiative that encourages businesses to go into schools and talk about careers.

“We haven’t got careers advice working in schools at all,” says CEO Steve Holliday. Careers Lab, which is supported by a number of other businesses, aims to change that. “We’ve got to make sure as many businesses as possible offer, however short, an experience of work that ends up being inspirational,” Holliday adds.

He believes a lot of businesses feel there is “a lot of red tape” around offering work experience, which may explain why only one-in-four offer it. “There’s some truth in that,” he acknowledges. “But for some businesses, it’s become somewhere to hide. In reality, just a few days shadowing someone, or getting them excited about work, is all ‘work inspiration’ needs to be.”

Holliday is clear that this isn’t “altruism” or CSR. “This is about being selfish for our business,” he says. “In order to make sure we have the right skills for the future, from a business perspective we need to go down the pipeline to 11, when people are being influenced and making decisions.”

Further reading

Has HR forgotten how to recruit young people?

SMEs and the skills crisis

Falling down the skills black hole