For employers – how to get the most from work experience

It’s not just young people or career changers who benefit from work experience. Employers can use the opportunity to develop staff. They can act as mentors and reflect on their current role and future possibilities. Students bring new ideas and offer you a chance to engage with future customers. You are also building your contacts with potential recruits. 

Offering a taste of the world of work is also about making a contribution to your community. Youth employment has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels and one in eight are outside learning or work.

Experience can include:

  • Work shadowing
  • One or two week placements
  • Project work

There are two stages when schools and colleges look for work experience, often after exams: 

  • Key stage 4 (aged 14-16) 
  • Key stage 5 (aged 16-19) 

All T Level qualifications and traineeships involve work experience. 

What’s your aim? 

Ask yourself why are you offering experience? What do you hope to achieve? It might be part of your Corporate Social Responsibility programme, or to develop your pipeline of potential recruits. 

Who will you recruit?

Links with schools, colleges and universities are an obvious source but young people who are struggling are in especially in need of opportunities. Some local authorities run projects for those who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Many of them are from the most marginalised backgrounds and face real barriers to employment. 

How will they apply?

Do you want to hold interviews, face to face or online, or rely on schools and colleges to recommend students? How will you ensure fair selection, making opportunities available to students who face barriers, such as those with disabilities?

What will they do?

Think about where the young person will work, who can support them and what you are able to deliver. It’s not just about making tea. What tasks can they take on? How can they get insight into different areas of your business? How can you develop other members of staff, perhaps acting as buddies or mentors? 

Before they start

Liaise with the college or school about how their placements usually work. Send the student a welcome message with information about their hours, where they will be working and how they need to dress. Is there anything they need to bring?

Essential checks

You need to think about:

  • Health and safety 
  • Risk assessments 
  • Insurance 

See HSE work experience guidance for advice. Your employers’ liability insurance policy will cover work placements if the insurer is a member of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) or Lloyds. 

Time to reflect

Use our workbook to help your student reflect and make sure you get feedback – it’s useful to see how an outsider coming in views your practice. It includes information such as key contacts during the placement, a confidentiality agreement, placement timetable, daily learning logs, a feedback form, student action plan and space for your feedback to the student.

More information