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jon wellman of go fer broke

Benefits of workplace experience for your business

author: Jon Wellman - 30 May 2022

For the last two years, schools have not had the opportunity for their students to engage with potential employers, or to support their students with workplace experience.

Much of the OFSTED curriculum has adapted to focus, not on exam results, but on the careers support that students receive to help them into the world of work; and this engagement is critical for young people making the transition from school to workplace. Part of that is a requirement that requires students to have one to two weeks workplace experience, generally in year 11.

Schools, and students, will be desperate this year to make up for the missed opportunities and be looking for as much support from business employers as they can get.

And this is where you come in:

In Newport we are lucky to have highly respected schools that have hundreds of young people joining the workforce every year. All potential employees for the right business.

So, when a student or a school asks you about workplacements, do you regard it as an opportunity or an effort?
Given the current issues around recruitment and retention, many would suggest that showcasing the opportunities within your sector, and of building relationships with potential staff – and being able to assess aptitude and attitude in advance of the hiring process - is a great opportunity and should be grasped with both hands.
There are some sectors that are already investigating this; recently I’ve been involved in discussions with a representative of the construction industry, who recognise the skill gaps and the need to make their sector attractive to school leavers, on how they can build meaningful relationships with local schools.

Some students have an idea, even a certainty, of their career goals from a young age, others do not. Much is made that ‘there is no longer a job for life’ even an expectation that there will be much more of a portfolio of careers and experience in the future. The skillsets and mindsets for a future of technological advances will be very different from those of a mechanical and administrative past. Being able to recognise those who will most fit into your company culture at an early stage must be of benefit to your business.

Taking on a young person for workplace experience shouldn’t be too daunting. I’d suggest it is an opportunity to look at the businesses induction package and identify where it can be improved. If it doesn’t make it easy for someone on workplace experience, then it probably isn’t for any new starter.

Some additional benefits of embracing workplace experience:

- Creates an opportunity to allow existing staff members to be a mentor.
- Provides an opportunity for your existing processes to be tested and challenged – and improved.
- Widens the business diversity demographic and promotes alternative ideas.
- Allows the business to engage with new ways of thinking and to update on new technologies they may not be aware of.
- Builds links with the local community as well as with schools.
- Adds change to the workday and a focus for all the staff.

So, yes, committing to workplacements does involve time and effort, but then so should taking on any new member of staff (Personally, I have experience of starting a new job where there was not a single piece of evidence that any planning for my induction had taken place. Not surprisingly, I didn’t stay long).
If you focus on the giving, rather than what work you can expect the student to complete, you are likely to benefit more. See it as developing a stream of potential talent.

Steps to take:

Identify potential mentors; tap into underutilised skills.
Regard the process as a project; identify stakeholders, timelines, schedules and what needs to happen and what resources are needed.
- Consider first impressions. Arriving at your place of work may seem daunting, even intimidating, so ensure the student knows what to do when and where and make sure a mentor is there to support them.
- Think of the student’s needs:
- To meet a range of people and tasks within the workplace.
- Reliable two-way communication, and that includes feedback.
- Ideally, something tangible at the end of the process.
- Takeaways; the opportunity for further research online into the company, the sector, or the skills.

Make this a fun process for all involved; build relationships with the local schools and consider how a regular stream of students looking to understand the world of work can give you access to young talent.

Please contact the local schools and ask to speak to their careers lead; they will be only too happy to talk to you.

I have been a volunteer Enterprise Adviser at a local school, supporting career development, for six years.
As a business advisor, I have a particular interest in improving Workplace Culture and Leadership and in building Social Value relationships with local charities and voluntary organisations to support local communities. Do contact me to explore how you can improve your recruitment and retention by building a meaningful culture in your business

Contact: jon.wellman@goferbroke.uk

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