The lack of work experience provision is a black mark on the UK’s education system

The power of work experience can’t be overstated. Young people need meaningful interactions with companies if they are to hit the ground running when they take their first steps into the working world. These placements can not only help students to develop workplace skills but also inspire them to find careers they’ll love. Sherry Coutu CBE, Chair of Founders4Schools and The ScaleUp Institute writes in FE News.

This isn’t news to most. A recent study from the Education and Employers charity and Life Skills by Barclays, “Making the Grade“, reported nine out of 10 secondary school teachers (93 per cent) say that work experience and employer related activities can help students to do better in exams. Similarly, according to the Education and Employers charity, students who experience four or more employer engagements are seven times less likely to be a NEET (a young person not in education, employment or training) and are likely to earn 17 per cent more than peers without the same experience.

According to The Careers and Enterprise Company, only half of schools (54.5 per cent) are offering the majority of their students a meaningful experience of the workplace by the end of year 11. This drops to only a third (33.2 per cent) in the sixth form. The result is something of a perfect storm, threatening to damage both young people’s chances of reaching their potential and our scaling company’s’ growth ambitions, which so often rely on access to talent.

Without a strong framework for delivering work experience, there’s a dependence on informal networks and an over-indexing on large companies. There are two issues with this: Time-poor teachers cannot be expected to spend large portions of time researching and finding placements for students. That leaves parents. Indeed, The House of Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility found that 82 per cent of young people cited parents as their biggest source of careers guidance. But sadly, this means that work experience can fall by the wayside for many, putting children from less wealthy backgrounds at a disadvantage.

Indeed, one of the answers to the work experience challenge is to make stronger connections between young people and local employers. Founders4Schools has spent the last few years bringing entrepreneurs into classrooms up and down the country to meet students. This has certainly helped to inspire students and get them thinking about their future careers. But our conversations with teachers and students made us realise we could go one step further and create a way to put students in the driving seat.

We’ve created a mobile app called Workfinder, which enables students, their parents and teachers, to explore their local labour market, find and apply for work experience placements.

Read more The lack of work experience provision is a black mark on the UK’s education system

Has your school established a good link with local businesses? In general do students see work experience as a chore or an opportunity? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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