Concerning figures about UK firms’ work-experience provisions have emerged from a CIPD investigation into preparedness for the forthcoming ‘T-level’ qualifications.  In a survey of 2,000 employers, the organisation found that 60% of them still hadn’t heard of the new courses, which are intended to sit in parallel with A-levels and apprenticeships as a new form of vocational learning.
One of the most significant T-level requirements is for each student to fulfil a work-experience placement of at least 45 days in length. However, according to CIPD’s research, more than a third of employers (35%) haven’t provided any form of work experience within the past 12 months. Of those that do offer work experience, almost two-thirds (62%) offer placements lasting less than 15 days, while a quarter (24%) provide only five-day stints.
Those limitations reveal the huge leap that employers will have to make, in order to help T-Level students reach the minimum required duration of 45 days.
CIPD found that just over one in five employers (22%) would be able to offer that level of work experience, but require a financial incentive to do so. Meanwhile, 10% said they could offer placements of only two or four weeks – and a quarter (24%) said they wouldn’t be able to offer any work experience at all.
CIPD skills adviser Lizzie Crowley said: “These findings shine a light on the potentially fatal mismatch between the amount of work experience T-Level students will need to complete their qualification, and what UK employers currently feel able to offer. We, and many employers, welcome the reforms to the skills system, and the positive impact that T-Level students can bring to workforces around the country.
“However,” she added, “for the majority of organisations, particularly SMEs, the requirement to provide 45 days of work experience per T-level student is unrealistic and could prove to be a significant problem.”
Do CIPD’s figures show that UK employers are missing a valuable opportunity to engage with the future workforce by failing to offer work experience in a more structured and substantive way?
“There are lots of reasons why organisations could – and should – offer work experience,” says Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper. “By failing to do so at an adequate level, employers are taking far too short-term a view. For one thing, we are approaching full employment. For another, predictions suggest that, as we move closer and closer to a knowledge economy, we will increasingly face a talent shortage. So work experience immediately presents a means of attracting young talent early on, and encouraging them to start forming relationships with employers.”
Cooper notes: “organisations that are not considering employing young talent in large numbers still have a powerful role to play. Those firms should regard work experience as CSR work – a type of outreach that will enable them to forge links with schools and help students gain insights into the world of work.
“Platforms such as Glassdoor are proving instrumental in forming and cementing company reputations – particularly among young applicants. So, by providing work experience, a firm boosts its chances of generating positive word of mouth online. You want people to think well of your organisation, because favourable noises will also help to bring you new customers. And work experience is a great way of encouraging young people to express their approval for you as an employer.”
Cooper points out: “of course, that all comes at a cost, and putting together a meaningful package of work experience requires the input of a dedicated person or team. There are few things worse for young people than to be on work experience that they find boring. If they are presented with interesting tasks that have a degree of substance and purpose, then they will emerge at the end of each day – and the stint as a whole – with a sense of achievement, and the knowledge that they have made a tangible contribution. That will certainly chime with what we have discussed in previous blogs about young people’s eagerness to work for a higher purpose that inspires them to achieve.”
She adds: “crafting work-experience packages is really important. You can create openings and opportunities for work-experience people that will contribute to your organisation’s goals, but it does take spending and a lot of careful thought. Above all, leaders must understand that work-experience students are not there to watch, or get bored. They’re there because they want to take part in something.”
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