In today's fast-evolving labour market, early careers recruitment has never been more significant. A pivotal part of this is providing young people with invaluable work experience opportunities, a subject under the spotlight during the recent National Work Experience Week in the UK.
A smooth transition from school to work is vital for young jobseekers, yet it remains a challenge for many, often due to a lack of exposure to workplace environments. However, through work experience, young people can gain a sense of the professional world, equipping them with essential skills and instilling a healthy dose of motivation and confidence.
Despite the undeniable benefits, work experience opportunities are disturbingly underutilised. A concerning fact revealed in the 'Work Experience For All' report is that merely a third of teenagers between 16 to 18 years have work experience. The inequality worsens when we delve deeper, as those from disadvantaged backgrounds are often deprived of these opportunities. This inequality is exacerbated when one considers that students from independent schools have a higher likelihood of undertaking multiple work placements compared to their state-educated peers.
The consequences of these unequal opportunities echo across various sectors, including engineering. The urgent need for a skilled future workforce underscores the necessity to expand work experience opportunities for young people in the engineering sector.
Interestingly, the trend towards a hybrid working model, hastened by the pandemic, has prompted a shift in the nature of work experience. Organisations such as EngineeringUK have pioneered the transition from traditional face-to-face work experience to virtual work experience, in line with the evolving work practices. Offering virtual work experience not only suits the changing work environment but also broadens access for young people, regardless of their geographical location.
However, rectifying the disparity in work experience requires a concerted effort that extends beyond employers and educational institutions. The involvement of governmental entities, like Local Enterprise Partnerships and Institutes of Technology, alongside Career Hubs, is fundamental. This partnership would ensure consistent coverage and effectiveness in offering work experience opportunities to every young person across the UK.
Further complicating the scenario is the introduction of the T Levels, a technical alternative to A Levels. The T Levels, featuring a 45 to 50-day industry placement, would require an estimated 43,500 industry placements by 2024/25. This could potentially overshadow traditional work experience opportunities. However, we urge businesses to continue offering these alongside T Level placements, as they contribute significantly to young people's futures. Such an investment in work experience shows a commitment to not only the industry's future but also the young people's futures.
The Federation of Small Businesses' research highlighted the current lack of relationships between schools and small businesses. Thus, fostering such relationships can play a vital role in providing work experience opportunities, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Our mission as a recruitment company is to bridge the gap between employers and young jobseekers, equipping the latter with the confidence and motivation to take their first steps into the professional world. We believe in the potential and the value that young people bring to the workplace, and we invite employers to make this investment in our future generation. If you're considering a change in your working situation or want to explore the wealth of opportunities available, reach out to our team – together, we can shape the future of work.