We catch up with Fair Train CEO, Rod Natkiel on this work experience webinar, we talk about the benefits & challenges and the important things to remember when offering work experience.
A short transcript of the video is provided below.
Fair Train started in 2009, the need for Fair Train was born out of the voluntary and youth sector not understanding the value of apprentices and apprenticeships. Fair Train was set up to promote the idea of apprenticeships within that sector.
It acquired status as a group training association for the sector and with funding from UKCES in 2012 it worked on an employer pathway project that resulted in the creation of the Work Experience Quality standard.
The Work Experience Quality standard is an accreditation and step to guide on how to deliver or experience the best quality work experience. It has spread from being focused on the voluntary sector to all sectors covering employers, training providers and learning providers.
A guide to getting it right
Two years ago work experience week was created to celebrate the number of activities taking place in all sectors, large and small. Last year Fair Train staged the first national conference to launch the week. Acknowledging the great work seen and that not every employer would be able to make a large scale conference in one location this year there were 5 half day conference in the 4 weeks, Manchester, Bristol, Heathrow, Plumpton and Wolverhampton.
The work experience events this year featured young voices in person and in video (you can watch the video here) the voice of young people is important, too often we make assumptions on what young people think, feel and want but it is imperative that we include youth voice. Young people should be informing decisions.
We know that Work experience plays a vital role in young people’s lives, youth unemployment remains high.
We tend to find there are three barriers:
- They aren’t sure what careers are available, not being able to access information and advice
- Not having work experience, employers want young people with experience which is a real catch 22
- Accessing opportunities
Are we creating enough opportunities and is work experience a key?:
Work experience is a key, you couldn’t say it was THE key but it is a definite factor and key. In the most recent UK employer perspectives survey 63% of employers consider work experience to be critical when recruiting but only 38% offer any type of work experience.
I do think that it is a key to gaining employment and a chance of employment as employers are looking for that employment. I also think it is very important in getting over the first feel hurdles of employment because you’ve been there and done it you’ve learnt and had experience of how to dress, how to get there on time, how to interact with different people, how to relate to senior people, the behaviour in the workplace, team working, time keeping and your self confidence. If you have had a good experience your self confidence will have risen, your resilience will have risen, communication skills will be better and this is all before you start a job!
We are talking about making young people employable, we aren’t focusing on teaching them the technicalities of a certain type of job (they will build that experience) we are talking about learning how to function in the work place to some degree and it is a really important kick start.
We aren’t creating enough quality opportunities, not because of ill will but simply because, every young person should be entitled to some form of experience of the work place before they encounter work and in order for them to get work. We can not possibly be creating enough opportunities and not enough quality opportunities as we are still hearing upsetting bad stories that people have.
More of what works:
There are a large number of people doing a great deal of good work in the field we just need more of it.
More stories of innovative and good quality work coming forward, organisations making work experience as a fabric and asking people back and being asked to come back in full employment or further experience.
What has happened is that in the past work experience was seen as a bit of a nuisance, it does require resources time and effort to make it work. More employers need to realise it has a key benefit in a talent pipeline. Employers want to spot talent and spot it early giving those people opportunities and support them to join the organisation. By finding good talent in work experience employers will know that the young person knows about he business, works well with and for the business and the young person themselves ahs had a chance to see if the opportunity is one that suits them.
Employers in large numbers are beginning to see the benefit of finding these good people, giving them an opportunity and spotting future employers. A lot of people want to do their bit and want to help. There is enormous commitment and passion from employers about supporting young people to do well within their company and beyond.
One of the things we underestimate is the power of that week or two weeks in a young persons life, what it does to support that young persons future whether they end up working for the organisation again or not. The benefit of time, mentoring and guidance is one that has a greater impact than simply giving work experience.
What are the challenges?
As we look at some of the changes coming to technical education what are the challenges employers face as we ask employers to be more involved and give more work placements, apprenticeships and work experience too?
Some may shy away form offering work experience but hopefully many will embrace it. Within small towns and with micro businesses there are major challenges. Everybody needs to understand that this is a big ask and we can’t pretend that it isn’t. It’s imperative to win the hearts and minds and that there is a real understanding of the benefits to employers. For example if Brexit does impact the influx of European workers then the pressure on the British workforce is going to increase. We need now to be getting our young people really up to speed as much possible now. Employers are the only people who can offer work experience in a place of employment.
There are bigger issues such as “what’s in it for me commercially” which an employer might ask when they are working out how much time and resources they might need to devote to offering work experience. But, as we were saying there is a huge benefit to building a potential workforce. To make this work there needs to be a will to do this and the benefits need to be really clear.
There will people that don’t have the will, people that don’t understand what is involved, those who don’t have the capacity or think they don’t have the capacity or those who don’t have the capability or think they don’t have the capability. When we talk about capacity I saw a good example of a two man garage who were associated with a college, they wanted to run work experience but they were concerned with being two of them and them spending so long under cars or out they weren’t sure they could look after or give a good work experience to a work experience placement. That is an understandable view, we talked about how many more business like that there were in the area and to talk to those 4 or 5 other business to see if there was a way that together they could create the experience – which has been done.
There are people with capability issues, if they don’t have a HR department or have a small HR department they will think that they cant do it or don’t have the capability. The capability will be there as it isn’t rocket science, there are a number of resources which can help. There is a lot of education to be done with employers, which isn’t being done enough. It needs to be done against a background of people realising and being honest that it it is a big ask but there are benefits and values.
The Government feel that employers have such an important role to play in this and if we look at the evidence that employers want experience then there is a real requirement for more employers to be involve and be creative in what they can offer, stepping away from two week blocks of work experience if it doesn’t work for them.
What does good work experience look like?
The key is that it is thorough! Thoroughly, carefully and sensibly thought through and well managed and purposeful. There is a purpose for the young person, there is a purpose for the organisation and that there is a purpose for all those interacting with young people. A measurable, purposeful experience.
I would talk about having a work experience soul, which means that everybody in the organisation is buying in to the work experience week, two week, placement or however it is being run. What matters is that everyone buys in it whether they are directly involved or not. The person doing the experience feels much more important. It can be broken down in to how the organisation feelings and attitudes towards it, how the placement is planned, how it is kicked off and started. We hear stories of people arriving and there being no mentors or no one to look after them. Making sure there is proper feedback throughput and at the end of the placemat and making sure that the young person has an ideas about how to move forward as they finish the placement.
The Work Experience Quality Standard
The mark applies to employers, training, learning providers and facilitators. It is the work experience quality standard. it is the standard that accredits people providing work experience at quality. It is a process that you go through (different depending on whether you are an employer, training, learning facilitators) It starts with a self assessment where you work out what level you are depending on what criteria you meet in the assessment. Whether you are at bronze, sliver or gold – assuming that is correct and you have the evidence to support it is awarded. All submissions are audited.
It gives different organisations different things, it is an external evaluation and accreditation that works for all stakeholders so you can say to anybody from Ofsted or your shareholders, the pubic, We do this and we do this very well and an external organisation has confirmed that. It also is given employers a lot of help in winning additional resources, they have been able to go to their board and ask for more people to deliver more quality work experience placements. Internal confirmation of the good work that is going on, it helps spread the word through an organisation that there is good work going on. There is evidence from organisations that when work experience is going on morale is boasted. 81% of employers said productivity increased when work experience was happening (in the Employers perspective survey). There is a buzz n the office and young people are challenging processes and sharing ideas. If you are working to deliver work experience at a really high standard and working on maintaining the standard it is a terrific way of giving management experience.
The accreditation is both a checklist and a step by step guide
The audits allow us to hear the stories and views, which is always impressive and uplifting. There are always a couple of things that can be suggested but you learn so much about different areas of activity.