So we had a fantastic few days away over the half term, but while I was having time away with my girls, I got chatting to a friend about the subject of what schools do to support kids as they transition from the work of education into the world of work. Two very different places.
Now I have a view that as a country we don’t do enough to help prepare kids for such a big change, but I won’t get on my soapbox right now, as that wasn’t what I wanted to talk, although it is related.
Part of preparing kids to go out into the big wide world is giving them an insight into what work is actually about. Back in my day (oh gosh I sound so old), the school found opportunities with local businesses where you would spend a week or two and probably ended up doing the filing or making tea, so not a great introduction, as we all do way more that just that. However I recently found out schools don’t offer work experience at all any more, which I think is a real shame. How on earth then are we planning on supporting kids through this big change?
Now for me the idea of giving local young people the opportunity to get a taste of employment can be an appealing one, for many reasons. Offering work experience roles can strengthen your reputation as a business, give you an immense amount of satisfaction, and more importantly your doing your bit to ensure that you’re playing your part in creating a skilled workforce for the future.
When you get down to the nitty gritty though, it can become tempting to ditch the idea completely, and I can understand why. The process traditionally involves a ton of red tape and jumping through hoops, so however good your intentions, it can sometimes just seem like it’s just too much hassle.
Things are changing though and I would encourage you all to think differently. Many business leaders can see the value of creating opportunities for young people and here, I want to explain what you need to know to move forward with this valuable opportunity.
Step outside the notion of a one-week placement
Back in the day, work experience would involve young people taking a week out of formal education to work a 9-5 role with a local employer. Nowadays, things are much more flexible.
Could you offer site visits to schools? Could you, or a member of your staff, offer mentoring? Could you offer evening or weekend opportunities? Thinking outside of the box could prove to be better for your business, and for the young people who you’ll be working with.
Think beyond making the tea and collecting the post
No one’s expecting you to hand over the running of your company, and throwing your placement right in at the deep end could prove to be overwhelming. Ease them in gently, but be sure to give them real opportunities and challenges to get their teeth stuck into during their time in your business.
Keep in mind that a young person can bring a fresh perspective to the table, as well as energy and enthusiasm. You might just stumble upon your next big business idea.
Draw up a plan
It makes sense to think about how your young person will spend their time when they’re in your business. Of course, they’ll need to know what hours they’re working and where they need to show up on the first day, but thinking a little wider than this can set you up for success.
How will their time be filled? Can they shadow various members of staff? Can they get involved in different projects? Is it possible to offer them an element of choice, so they can learn more about the areas they’re interested in? Be flexible, but be sure to have at least the bare bones of a plan.
Communication, communication, communication
Communication is always important in the workplace, and if you want to offer a successful placement, then it’s absolutely essential. Start by having an initial conversation with the school so you understand what they’re expecting.
On the first day of the placement, arrange an informal chat with the young person so you can understand what they want to take away from the process. On the final day, provide them with feedback. And of course, invite them to share their own feedback about the experience. You can take away some really valuable insights into how your business is operating.
At this stage you may well have questions about how all of this could work for you. Perhaps you’ve got unique challenges that you need to overcome, or you’d just like to chat with an experienced professional about getting your work placements right first time. Well we can help. Get in touch today for a no-obligation chat and you never know, you might just find the sort of talent your business is looking for.