My work experience
I achieved my TV debut whilst on work experience. I completed my placement at Lancashire County Cricket Club during an Ashes summer. Channel 4 attended an event the club hosted to film interviews for an advert for their Ashes coverage. Muttiah Muralitharan and Dominic Cork (two international cricketers) starred at the event. When Channel 4 asked the two internationals if they’d provide a few quotes for the advert, they nodded in my direction: “let the work experience kid do it”.
The crew waved a camera in my face and asked me to predict the ashes. Easy. 5-0 whitewash to England. Warne was past it, McGrath couldn’t bowl straight, Ponting hated the short ball and Waugh was mentally weak. I thought I was funny. If you know much about cricket I bet you’ve spat out your coffee due to the hilarity. Channel 4 must have done too. It was broadcast a week later. I missed every airing of the advert, but was told it was BAFTA award standard by people who know that sort of thing (my mother; grandmother etc. My old man thought it was rubbish, but he works in insurance, not television.).
This was comfortably the most memorable moment of my work experience. I spent two days stuffing envelopes with marketing material to send to all the cricket clubs in the north west. It was a wonder I could still talk for that advert. This was back in the day of “lick and stick”. No peel-back envelopes here!
What’s happened to secondary work experience?
Work experience is now no longer mandatory in high schools, but in post 16 education, bodies such as OFSTED assert its importance. The new inspection framework judges organisations on the strength of their programmes. I would argue that this rigour should be extended back into high schools.
With increasing pressure on companies to recruit apprentices and more responsibility on schools and colleges to organise meaningful work experience, the process must create more value. Work experience could be a vital tool in the attraction process of young people. Companies must see it as such. Young people are ignorant of the vast array of careers available to them. Work experience expands this knowledge.
Students in schools and college first port of call when organising a placement is their family connections. Failing this, schools and colleges beat the doors of local employers, imploring them to take on one of their charges. For students whose family connections aren’t extensive, gaining meaningful experience is a battle. This is often the first of many hindrances to social mobility.
The work experience process is contrived and teaches students that work (if their parents ARE connected or their school / college does the running around for placements) is easy to come by. Someone else will bend over backwards to afford you with an opportunity. Of course, we know the real jobs market is anything but straightforward. In order to gain meaningful employment, you have to be GOOD.
Why work experience is important
Companies must offer more work experience for school aged pupils. They should work closely with schools to ensure they take on the best candidate for the work experience they’re offering. They should use rigorous processes to ensure they ‘hire’ the best person for the job. They should also test out their attraction strategy much earlier through looking for work experience students, lining up potential future hires much earlier.
In order to alleviate the burden of resource, employers should use careers staff in schools and colleges to help with filtration. Schools will be motivated to do a good job as employers will possess the right to end the relationship if the student they send isn’t up to scratch.
Failure to employ work experience can be costly to employers. With increasing emphasis on apprenticeships, the levy and Brexit meaning a reduction in the labour pool, employers need to make good hiring decisions as early as possible.
The risk of hiring young people is that they may be unaware of what they are letting themselves in for and quit quickly. This costs money. Educating young people around the facets of your work place much earlier negates this issue. They learn what you want. You learn if they’re what you want.
Everyone’s a winner
Work experience is an opportunity to get your ducks in a row and pipeline your apprentices much sooner. The same tactic is employed in graduate recruitment. Why can’t this be replicated for earlier stage hires? This is the proactive approach to apprentice recruitment.