As thousands of 14 and 15 year olds head off on work experience this week, thousands of employers will be digging out their filing and ordering boxes of teabags as they prepare to drink more tea than they’ve ever drunk before.
I’ve been responsible for managing work experience in organisations for over 15 years and it is one of the toughest jobs. Organising work for someone with limited skill, let alone interest in your organisation and it’s purpose, coupled with reticent team members who will do anything to get out of ‘entertaining’ the student for an hour.
Does it sound familiar?
It’s a shame that the vast majority of work experience is viewed like that as it can make or break someone’s decision on their future career path. 25 years ago I undertook my work experience and I can say that it was without a doubt the worst week’s work I’ve ever undertaken and firmly put me off a career working with children. In the sense of opening my eyes, it was great!
So, what can you do to make your work experience placement interesting, fun and educational for the student placed with you? Here’s my tips!
Find out in advance what the student is looking to learn, see or do while they’re with you and accommodate this wherever possible.
Prepare a booklet in advance that gives them key information about the business - go back to your induction for useful content.
Give them a glossary of jargon and sector specific terminology to help them understand more.
Give them details with photos about the key members of staff they’ll be working with - the parents will appreciate this more than the student!
Ask them to spend the week doing research to present to you at the end of the week what they have found out about a key factor affecting your business - you never know this may be of real help.
Give them fun information to find out - i.e. who said what, who said what, silly anecdotes about the staff members that will get them moving around the workplace and talking to people.
Try and get them out of the workplace where possible. If you have travelling staff, gain the parents permission for them to accompany them on the visit.
Arrange shadowing in different parts of the organisation to give them exposure to different aspects of the organisation.
Avoid giving them filing to do - a bit is fine, but please don’t make it all day for 5 days!
Have a nice team lunch, take them out or get something nice in either on the last day to give them a great send-off.
Among all of this, don’t neglect the health and safety responsibilities in having a school-aged worker with you. The school or college placing them will work with you on this but where they might go outside of your workplace, make sure you liaise with the school and gain parental consent.
The more preparation you can put in to planning the placement before hand the smoother it will run during the week and the more that the student will get from it, reflecting brilliantly on your company.
Don’t forget to leverage the placement where you can too. Get a picture of the student with the team and ask them to write a few lines about how their work experience with you has been. Promote the placement on your social media accounts and website to enhance your employer brand.
Work experience usually takes place in the autumn and spring each year. We’d be delighted to help you prepare for future work experience placements.
If you are an employer and need assistance with staff and employment matters, talk to Cheryl at PeakHR. We offer competitive rates and cater specifically for small employers.
Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.