More Than a Job’s Worth: Making Work Experience Fit for Purpose

Work experience encompasses young people’s experience of work tasks in work environments on time-limited placements, alongside their education.
 
It offers a range of benefits for young people, including providing:

  • Insight into the world of work that improved their ability to make decisions about the future, understand workplace ‘norms’ and behaviours, and to understand different sorts of workplaces;
  • Development of career-relevant skills valued by employers including communication, teamwork, resilience and confidence, and;
  • Improved long-term careers outcomes, including wage-premiums, employability, and a reduced likelihood of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

 
However, work experience’s potential to achieve these benefits remains untapped. The quality of work experience is hugely variable, and often very poor. A large proportion of young people do not think the work experience they undertake is good quality. However the quality is likely to be higher for more affluent pupils, who have access to stronger, higher-status networks relevant to their needs and aspirations.
 
Furthermore, despite being an entitlement across the UK, access to work experience is currently hugely variable:

  • Many young people do not have access at all. Survey data indicates that half of young people aged 14- to 25-years-old have not participated in work experience.
  • Demographic characteristics affect access to work experience opportunities. Poverty, minority ethnic status, gender and special educational need or disabilities all reduce pupils’ likelihood of participating.
  • Access is also affected by subject choices. Pupils choosing ‘academic’ routes in school are less likely to participate in work experience. In addition, work experience is more readily available in certain sectors and organisations than others.




Date Published: 2nd May 2019
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