Last year we sponsored the “Business Involved in Work Experience” award with Basingstoke Consortium, a charity that works with young people, helping to give them the motivation, self-confidence, attitudes and skills for adult life.
It’s made me think about how valuable work experience is at all ages, let alone those entering the world of work for the first time. There are lots of arguments for and against work experience. Those against offer arguments such as unpaid labour, irrelevance to target careers, the candidates are fobbed off with the worst jobs or it’s too labour intensive.
Let’s take these points one at a time. However, I stress that this can be applied to ALL people looking to gain work experience, regardless of their age, status or circumstances.
Often, yes it is unpaid – but shouldn’t it be seen as an investment in your future? How many people object to “try before you buy” deals in the supermarket or online? Exactly! I know this may sound controversial, if you’re on work experience the likelihood is that you don’t yet have the skills the employer is looking for. You are a risk to them, but you may have the right attitude or the aptitude that makes them accept that risk and invest in your future. So why wouldn’t you take that chance?
Irrelevance to Target Career
We hear a lot about this. “Why should I do retail work experience when I want to be a vet?” The world of work is all about transferable skills. What is relevant in one job could be equally as relevant in another. It’s one of the main reasons we advocate profiling. For instance, a good administrator likes processes and order – so does a good forklift driver – for different reasons, such as health and safety. Work experience is also about getting into the right frame of mind. The routine of when to get up; the working in a team and not letting your colleagues down; forming relationships with people who aren’t family or friends, but may spend more time with you than any of these groups. There’s no such thing as irrelevance – all experience adds up, even if it is experience of being there on time every day.
The Menial Stuff
Again this is often about risk. The work experience provider is taking a risk by “employing” someone with no or little relevant experience. So it’s small footsteps first. The initial tasks are often low risk; however they can also be the foundation steps to the company’s process. It’s often at this level that you see the roots of the organisation, why paperwork is filed that way, why the shop floor has to be clean and tidy. And everyone should be prepared to make tea for everyone else. Someone who understands the company from grass roots up is invaluable to an employer. It also helps you gain the respect of your work colleagues.
Too Labour Intensive
Hmmmm……..I have to be careful here. It is labour intensive. Especially to small companies who don’t have dedicated staff for these types of projects. But what will happen if we don’t invest in people’s work futures? If you were to recruit a new member of staff, you’d invest in their training, wouldn’t you? Work experience is about populating our community with work ready, willing to work adults who ARE our future. They are the people who will shape our economic climate, fund our hospitals, our retirement homes, education for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Why wouldn’t we invest in this?
What’s in it for Wote St Employment Bureau? We feel strongly about work experience because to survive as a business we need work ready adults who are genuinely willing to work for the money that is offered. None of us are paid what we are “worth”. But by working together, supporting and nurturing each other we can make Basingstoke a community to be proud of.
We feel passionately that temporary work is a great way to gain PAID work experience. It can break that cycle of no experience/no job. It can repair the CV gaps; rehabilitate offenders; show parental work returners that they ARE valued members of society; help the disabled into rewarding work. All in all it can change lives, instil a sense of self-worth and smash glass ceilings on an individual’s ability to pay their own way. Not to mention giving young people the first step on the working ladder.2
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