A recent survey of over 1,000 students showed that 83% thought that work experience should be compulsory in the UK [Career College Trust. 2018]. Despite this, over a third hadn’t yet participated in any work experience through school. It is however encouraging to learn that just over half (51%) had arranged their own work experience outside of school.
But what about the other 49%?
If we take this as a general trend and apply it nationally to the 3.2 million secondary aged students [www.gov.uk] in the UK, it suggests a great deal of students don’t experience a workplace before they leave formal education.
One has to ask why. Another survey showed 93% of decision makers in companies would support a move back to compulsory work experience [Opinion Matters, 2017]. So, if there’s an appetite from industry to support young people, why don’t more students engage in it?
It goes without saying that we’re all different, that some students (or their parents) will be more proactive in developing their skills and experiences for life after school, but what about the student who does alright, could do better but ticks enough boxes to stay below the radar but could do so much better? And what about the student who refused to engage in class and can be a distraction to others but is a delight to talk to and work with one to one? I’m sure we’ve all worked with those students. Perhaps for them it’s a lack of opportunity. Regardless of whether a school offers formal work experience placements as part of their curriculum or not, there should be ample time for students to carry out their own work experience but do all students know who to ask, how to ask, what to ask?
Through our Unlock and 6th Form Accelerator programmes, students meet with at least seven local business leaders, one to one, in their school and five in their place of work as part of a group. We provide students with the confidence and skills to make the most of the opportunities and the schools gain from having knowledgeable students as a resource to help others and the school.
Over 60% have arranged their own work experience whilst others develop contacts or promises of introductions to people who will be able to help them. In the last month alone, one student has been given her own radio show and another has secured weekend and holiday employment at a leading comms company.
So, whilst we’re not able to activate every student in the country (yet), we’re going some way in shifting students from recipients of opportunities given, to participants in creating their own opportunities.