· Features

Offer the next generation work experience that will inspire them and give them a positive view of working

By 2020 there will be three million fewer low-skilled jobs in the UK. China and India were forces that didn't exist when most of us were planning our careers, yet today they represent the fastest-growing workforces in the world. Our education system has the tough task of preparing young people for jobs that may not even exist in today's marketplace. After all, 20 years ago, who knew the UK would have become a focus for professional video gamers and designers of video games.

How does this fit into the world of UK plc? Today, Britain has the largest creative sector in the EU, employing around two million people. Ideas, innovation, creativity, design and culture are for me elements of what’s great about British industry. We need to equip and inspire young people to ensure we continue to lead.

Young people understand the challenge of change far better than we often think. As employers, we need to help them capitalise on their skills, enthusiasm and talent.  And we need to do so now. By showcasing to young people the variety of careers on offer in the corporate world and the dynamic changes that businesses go through, we can excite and motivate them to be more aspirational for themselves.

This task is often undermined by the media’s focus on entrepreneurs and celebrity, which is leading to expectations of instant fulfilment, rather than the hard graft we all know is necessary to achievement.  Separate research carried out by Business in the Community reveals that a negative view of the corporate workplace as boring and uninspiring is turning young people off to the idea of work. A yawning gap is opening up between the expectations and experiences of young people and their prospective employers. 

An inspirational work experience can be two weeks or just an afternoon.  We need to do more than offer a desk and an empty diary, but instead provide opportunities for young people to sample the skills that matter, such as teamwork, presenting, active listening and analysis. Working closely with Business in the Community I am determined to see this change. 

To achieve this step change in work experience means a step change in how it is delivered.  This change starts internally. Too often employees suffer the indignity of having the boss’s offspring foisted on them for a week, rather than having the chance to get involved in volunteer projects in which young people might make a valuable contribution. Packaging up work experience into inspirational projects is far more likely to engage. Rather than assuming that a week is the appropriate duration for work experience, we are working with local schools to offer a series of events where young people can collaborate towards an achievable goal.

Programmes like this only flourish if they are integrated into a company’s business model. For Capgemini, as a client-centric business, this is an opportunity to work with our clients.  So, we have created a workshop approach that allows young people to tackle a live client issue, where they can make real and valuable contributions to the solutions proposed and where clients can also benefit.

We’re at the start of our Work Inspiration journey but we have already realised there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. This is why as well as organising work experience events we’re also running career events and we’re focusing on apprenticeships.

One thing we’ve learnt is that Work Inspiration isn’t just for the young people, it’s also about inspiring your own people and letting them create the solutions that inspire young people, teachers, clients and colleagues.  Such positive experiences of work demonstrate to young people that there are many paths to success, enhancing their life and career aspirations. Crucially for businesses and organisations under efficiency pressures, such initiatives can deliver tangible benefits. Aside from attracting future recruits, the creation and execution of more inspiring work experience can help develop the leadership and management skills of staff whatever their seniority. Capgemini is convinced that its investment in Work Inspiration will deliver real returns for both our industry and our society.

Christine Hodgson is chief executive, Capgemini Technology Services UK