Work experience is not just an exercise for school-children in years 10 and 11. This form of involvement in the world of work for young people, which can demonstrate employability, is becoming an important factor in the job market. Large businesses may fill up to half of their vacancies with candidates who have completed some kind of work experience.
While an ‘internship’ might describe on-the-job training for a graduate with a career in mind, the wider term ‘work experience’ can denote the testing-out of job options while building self-confidence for students in a gap year, during further or higher education, or once the student has left full-time education. Those seeking work experience placements can send out their CV and a covering letter to all kinds of businesses, to see if they would be interested in offering this type of work.
Work experience placements may not be paid, depending on individual arrangements, but the involvement may still be beneficial as the individual will be able to record the experience and skills gained on their CV. Alternatively, young people looking for a further challenge could save up and contribute to the costs of engaging in voluntary work in this country or abroad.
Colleges and Universities may find work experience placements for their students, this is the case particularly if work experience forms part of an educational institutions programme of study for their students. For example, sandwich courses, course-related projects, or industrial and business placements. With the educational focus, students also benefit from supervision and assessment. Sometimes students are offered jobs by the business concerned at the end of their education.
However, any students under 18 who take part in work experience should be treated by the business involved as ‘young workers’ and restrictions may apply to the type of work they can undertake. All the students, school leavers or unemployed on work experience are regarded in health and safety law as employees and must be provided with the required protection.
From June 2012, some form of work experience is to be made compulsory for jobseekers. The Mandatory Work Activity scheme entails Jobcentre advisers referring those claiming benefits to unpaid placements in the local community. These placements will last a month and consist of 30 hours work per week. If a jobseeker refuses to work, their benefits may be cut for a minimum of three months.