Work experience is an opportunity for people out of work to experience first hand what working in a particular job or for a particular employer is like. Not only does it enable individuals to assess whether a job or employer meets their expectations, work experience also has many benefits for individuals - including:
- Build confidence.
- Establish a daily work routine.
- Learn new skills.
- Increase understanding of the labour market.
- Chance to prove that they are valuable and productive workers, which could lead to a job.
- Potentially gain a reference from an employer.
For work experience to be effective, it needs to be properly planned, with the individual and the employer both committed to the work experience placement. Good practice suggests ( CIPD, 2012):
- The placement is tailored to the individual's needs and circumstances. This includes finding out what they want to get out of the placement, which skills they want to develop, what barriers they face and what their career aspirations are.
- There is clarity about the role that the individual plays in the organisation and how they will be supported, supervised and mentored.
- Expectations are managed, the individual knows what they will contribute, whether there are any job opportunities or not, and how the employer might be able to help build their CV.
- The individual is treated as an active member of staff, but the placement is not used to fill a vacancy.
- The individual is introduced to the structure of working life; helped to learn and to develop a range of transferable skills, personal qualities and competencies which will contribute towards their employability.
- The individual is encouraged to relate their experiences and skills to the workplace and supported in making a more informed decision about their future. They receive open and honest feedback about what went well and what areas need to be improved and, if possible, advice on how to do this.
- The employer clearly explains up front what their expectations are - e.g. show an interest in the organisation and the industry; make the most of the opportunity; demonstrate a willingness to learn; respect the values of the host organisation; and abide by the rules.
- The employer works closely with the individual to make sure they use the placement to find out about the different employment options available and how to access them, including recruitment processes, and support them in building a network of contacts.
Work experience is strongly encouraged amongst school pupils and it is becoming an increasingly important component of interventions aimed at getting people towards and into sustainable employment.