This paper examines the importance of work experience, the needs of young people, the current policies regarding work experience, and what changes Youth Employment UK would like to see implemented by government and organisations, with regards to work experience.
Work experience is important to society; to businesses, the economy and young people:
- For young people it offers the experience of employment, which then helps them to make good career choices, develop key work skills and grow their confidence for future transition periods. According to the Tackling Youth Unemployment Report lead by Talent Match Nottingham having work experience is the most significant indicator that a young person will not become NEET (not in education, employment or training)
- For business it is an opportunity to bring new ideas, future customers and employees into the organisation, it also provides an excellent training and development opportunity for staff.
- The economy only works when people work, ensuring that business have access to the future talent they need and that young people have the skills for future employment is essential.
In the only 51% of young respondents had been given the opportunity for work experience whilst in secondary school. This figure demonstrates the inequality that exists within work experience provision.
What is the current policy on work experience?
Until 2012, all schools and colleges were obligated to ensure that all students participated in work-related learning, which tends to be termed as substantive work experience placements. In 2012 the DfE removed the statutory guidance placed upon schools and placed its emphasis on providing work experience in study programmes (16-19 education programmes).
The removal of the statutory duty intended to create more freedoms for schools to choose the most appropriate service for students. However, the consequence of this policy meant that many schools withdrew their work experience programme and student experience has been hugely varied during this period.
Following the launch of the Department for Education Careers Strategy in December 2017, statutory guidance has been updated to expand on the aims set out in the strategy. This statutory guidance was restructured around the Gatsby Benchmarks with information on what schools need to do to meet each one. The Gatsby Benchmarks are not a statutory framework but schools are encouraged to adopt them.
A schools legal duty is to secure independent careers guidance and provide opportunities to a range of providers to inform pupils about technical education qualifications or apprenticeships and publish information about the careers programme on the school website.
What do young people need?
When it comes to work experience, young people really understand the value it offers. In the 2018 Youth Voice Census 76% of respondents said that work experience helped to develop relevant skills for work. Young people believe that work experience should be offered to all students in secondary education and from as early as aged 14.
Young people have also told us through the Youth Voice Census and in the Work Experience Ambassador Project that:
“work experience opportunities need to be relevant to the young person’s career goals”
“work experience should be available multiple times throughout education, in Key Stage 3, 4 and 5”
“employers need support to ensure that work experience is a quality experience including inductions, mentoring, clearly defined roles and activities”
“young people require support to access work experience”
Where there is a reliance on young people to look to families or personal networks for work experience inequality is increased. In our report The Role of the Family in Social Mobility we identified the risk to social mobility when there is a reliance on family capital. Not all young people have access to the same types of capital.
If schools are to provide work experience all schools need to provide it, to ensure that every young person has the same access to quality experiences that can build their skills, confidence, knowledge of the world of work and personal networks.
What would Youth Employment UK like to see?
- The Department for Education should update the statutory duty upon schools to provide all young people at key stage 4 with a substantive work experience placement.
- Utilise the investment in the Careers and Enterprise Company to ensure that is equality of provision and track what experiences students are receiving in schools
- Work with the Careers and Enterprise Company, Movement to Work, Youth Employment UK to assess the provision of work experience opportunities and create a national tool by which young people and providers can identify quality opportunities.
- Ensure the quality of work experience by recognising the Youth Friendly Employer Award. This Award assesses quality of experiences being offered by employers to young people aged 14-24. Organisations working towards or with the Award can access advice and guidance co-created by young people to ensure the quality of opportunities.
- Government Departments should lead the way in offering quality opportunities and commit to applying for the Youth Friendly Employer Award and ensuring that placements are offered to young people within every department.
- Government should work with major employers to understand how more placements can be made available and how SME’s can be encouraged and supported to offer quality placements in rural and smaller communities.