Government should avoid knee-jerk reaction to BCC findings
British Chambers of Commerce call for work experience for under-16s to be made compulsory to increase exposure to the workplace from a young age
The recent call by the British Chambers of Commerce for work experience for under-16s to be made compulsory is a clear indicator of the importance of exposure to the workplace from a young age. However, the government should not make a knee-jerk reaction to this call, but instead look at better ways to scale up access to work experience and reduce the barriers faced by many young people due to selection or an understanding of the careers available, says Piers Linney, Co-CEO of Outsourcery and founder of youth work experience charity workinsight.org.
According to a survey published by the BCC, 82 per cent of business bosses and 73 per cent of education leaders believe that young people should take part in mandatory work experience programmes. To make this happen, the government must revisit its policy on work experience and refocus its priorities on closing the gap between the world of education and the world of work, while ensuring that quality work experience is available to all.
Linney commented: "Ending compulsory work experience in 2012 has left millions of school pupils without the chance to discover and nurture their talents before they embark on their careers.
"As a result, many people now find work experience opportunities through their parents or other people in their network. The result is a self-selecting problem where young people only learn about a particular level of work. This is fine if your parents or school have the right social networks or contacts or if you live in a city, but often highly unsatisfactory for the vast majority and those living in rural areas. Limited and skewed access to work experience fails to raise the aspirations of young people and contributes to the self-perpetuating cycle of privilege and the restriction of social mobility. It also fails employers seeking talent irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexuality or socio-economic background.
Work experience provides an invaluable window into working life for all young people, whether they have decided on their future career path from an early age, or are in need of a hand to help give them some direction.
Piers Linney, Co-CEO at Outsourcery
“Engaged, ambitious and career-minded young people are key to a productive future workforce, and unemployment in the UK is currently at its lowest rate for seven years: to maintain this momentum, we have to make sure that the next generation of workers is fully prepared to make the step up. However, access to work experience needs to be scaled up and employers, schools, colleges and young people need to brought together.”
Alongside his role at Outsourcery, Linney is currently working on developing his charity, workinsight.org. The not-for-profit organisation has been designed to provide people aged 14 to 19 with short yet highly informative workplace ‘Insights’ combined with relevant careers guidance. With no selection criteria applied, the charity aims to provide work experience opportunities to the widest possible range of young people, and is currently in its pilot stage. The digital platform will scale up access to short work place experiences to empower young people to make better-informed decisions about their future and connect employers with talent. The matching platform that brings together employers and talent is likened to an “uber taxi app of work experience”.
Linney concluded: “If work experience is mandatory, delivery becomes critical to avoid poorly structured or irrelevant experiences having a demotivating effect on young people and it’s just as important that the government doesn’t implement a piecemeal solution. Relevance and quality should always be favoured over quantity: work experience should be meaningful, challenging and stimulating, regardless of whether it is a brief placement or a more long-term engagement, and regardless of a young person’s socio-economic background. It is also a huge opportunity for employers to engage with talent. It’s one thing listening to what employers and education leaders have to say, but making sure all young people derive long-standing benefit from work experience is essential in making the next generation of employees a successful one.”
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