Work experience is generally considered to be beneficial for students on several levels – you gain career insight, find out what you like or don’t like about a particular job and have an introduction to the workplace and everything that entails.
An ideal placement will be a well thought out programme that gives the student an overview of the work as well as opportunities to work alongside a range of people who have different roles within the organisation.
But what is often overlooked is how your presence in the workplace can benefit employers too.
If you are curious, positive and enthusiastic, you can bring new energy to the company. Don’t be scared to offer ideas or solutions to issues. You never know, they may be just what is needed – a fresh pair of eyes and ears can sometimes be just what is needed to make a difference.
And having youth on their side can also be a big plus for employers. If you are working in a smaller company that may not have specialist IT or social media employees, the skills you’ve acquired naturally since you got your first tablet will be in great demand. For you, setting up and using social media accounts is second nature but for many older workers, it’s all a bit scary and baffling.
Your knowledge of each social platform, who it’s aimed at and how to make it work best for the company, could be invaluable information. And more generally, your online research or IT skills could help to improve the way a company operates. Some have always operated in a certain way because ‘it’s always been done like this,’ and they don’t see the need for change. But new technology and software could be the answer to modernising antiquated operating systems and potentially improve the company’s overall performance.
And of course, work experience doesn’t cost the employer a salary. If you are lucky you may be offered travel expenses, but this is not a legal requirement.
Hosting work experience placements can also benefit employers in another way - by allowing employees the opportunity to improve their own workplace skills, especially problem-solving.
The company may designate the management of a work experience programme to one member of staff who may therefore have to develop or consolidate their existing organisational and leadership skills to ensure that the programme runs smoothly. A well-designed programme will give you the opportunity to spend time with several employees who perform different roles. But if one team member suddenly falls ill and is unable to be with you, the work experience manager will have to respond quickly and efficiently to resolve the issue and to ensure that you are placed with another employee.
Employers and your work experience may have a strong influence on your future choices. You may also be lucky enough to be invited back for another placement.
Even better, if you love your placement and the job then you may decide that is what you want to do after leaving school. From the employer’s perspective, this is a good result. They will have been nurturing future talent as well as raising the profile of their own company in the community by offering placements to young people.
Alternatively, if your employer offers apprenticeship or school leaver programmes, you may well find that as a result of your work experience, you are in a good position to apply and potentially secure employment in the future.
The benefits for the employer of a situation like this are clear. They already know you, they think you would be a ‘good fit’ for their organisation and you are probably more likely to stay for a sustained period of time. It makes ‘business sense’ for them to employ someone who has already shown their worth rather than someone who is brand new to the organisation. Of course, if you don’t enjoy the placement then you’re not going to waste your or the employer’s time in applying for jobs in that particular sector.
By offering placements, employers are promoting their own company but they are also promoting the whole industry. For example, if an IT company offers work experience, they may potentially be training future IT specialists.
Work experience can also help companies to address broader work-related issues too. There is a national skills shortage in certain sectors, including IT, and by creating well run work experience opportunities, employers may help to reduce that shortage.
Work experience works both ways. It’s an opportunity for you to find out more about a job, shine and make your mark. It also gives employers the benefit of having a young person’s unique perspective on their organisation and the knowledge that they may be nurturing the next generation of talented employees in their sector.