Work experience placements – how to ensure a win-win for all involved

We’re all talking about skills – skills, skills, skills. When talking with other local businesses, the lack of relevant skills among our young people is a constant topic of conversation. And don’t get me started on the lack of language skills. Businesses, we need to rise to this challenge!

I’m happy to say that we, at COMTEC, are trying to do something to help. In the last year we have provided short work experience placements for 20 young people, ranging from pupils still studying for GCSEs through to translation graduates. In my view, it is crucial for businesses to offer these placements to ensure young people understand what skills are needed in the workplace and the career opportunities available to them.

Sadly, many fellow business owners are reluctant to offer placements. They may have had a difficult experience with a young person or just feel that it is too much hassle.

It is easy to understand why young people benefit from work placements. It’s an opportunity to try out the new skills acquired at school, to gain an insight into different career options and, most importantly to add a new section to their CV! But what about the businesses involved? What do they get out of providing work experience? For this to work there needs to be a win-win for both parties.

So what are the benefits for businesses in offering placements?

  • Assistance in completing short projects and administrative tasks. The key here is to provide tasks which the young person can realistically complete. In our instance, young people often help with competitor research or investigating developments in a particular sector.
  • Providing development opportunities for junior team members who appreciate the experience of managing another person
  • Ideas! You never know, a young person can bring a fresh perspective to a particular problem and suggest something you’d never thought about before!
  • A good feeling – you are giving something back to your community and helping to shape the next generation.

Based on our experience, here are a few tips for managing work placements effectively

  • Talk to the young person before the placement to understand exactly what they would like to get out of the experience.
  • Develop a plan of activities to cover the length of the placement. Identify key tasks for each day.
  • Pull together summary information about your business . This can include sales presentations and other marketing material. Allow the young person to understand the bigger picture.
  • Take time to identify tasks which the young person can realistically complete bearing in mind their existing level of competence.
  • Assign a member of your team to look after the student. This may be a more junior member of the team who will relish the opportunity to manage rather than be managed! Make them responsible for developing the plan of activities and overseeing their implementation.

We have developed partnerships with a number of local schools to offer placements. If this has persuaded you to consider helping, contact one of your local schools to find out more.

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