Compulsory work experience was scrapped back in 2012 and although some young people still benefit from taking part in work experience, many others do not. 82% of over 3,000 employers who were polled by the British Chambers of Commerce have now said that all under 16s should be offered work experience.
The benefits of meaningful, high quality work experience are well known to many, but especially to employers. Work experience provides an invaluable opportunity for young people to discover what it is actually like to work in a particular field. It also opens their eyes to the realities and demands of the work place, developing soft skills like team working, time management, initiative and importantly, confidence.
Many feel that the scrapping of compulsory work experience was a mistake, which young people are now paying the price for and Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said,
Axing compulsory work experience under the last government was a mistake, robbing thousands of young people of the chance to gain valuable skills.”
79% of business leaders argue that work experience is vital to equipping young people with the employability skills that they need for future success and preparation for work, and Ofsted have stated that meaningful work experience is crucial to apprenticeship success.
Young people themselves feel strongly that they would benefit hugely from access to high quality work experience and around 300 Youth MPs debated the issue in the House of Commons last November, with Chloe Stevens (East of England Youth MP) arguing that “We believe that all young people, between the ages of 13 and 18, should have the opportunity to participate in work experience, in an external working environment, or a minimum of one week in a field of their choice. Each school should ensure all students can access a professionally trained careers adviser for impartial and personalised careers advice. Careers advice services should also do targeted work to engage those on t in education, employment or training.”
Some however have been slightly critical of the criticism levelled at government by employers in relation to work experience, pointing to the fact that 36% of employers offer no work experience opportunities to young people. It is also worth noting that where work experience is offered, this is often by large companies rather than SMEs and more support is needed to help small businesses engage with young people through offering work experience placements.