Many young people all over the country have just completed work experience and for many it will be their first contact with an employer and an invaluable opportunity to discover more about what a particular career is really like, to learn new skills, build contacts and see how it feels to work 9-5.
I’m a huge believer in the benefits work placements provide, not least in demonstrating the ‘soft’ skills necessary to make someone ‘employable’ – such as communication and team-working.
When the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) surveyed its members last year it found that 79% of employers ranked work experience as the most important activity to equip young people with workplace skills. Director General of the BCC John Longworth said, “Business and school leaders are clear: we won’t bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work unless young people spend time in workplaces while still at school.”
We’re doing our bit to help at PET-Xi – at the end of July we ran the work experience scheme for Exhall Grange Special School in Coventry and welcomed one of their students, Joshua Fleming into our own offices, where he worked in our IT department. Joshua has just taken his GCSEs and will be going to Hereward College in Sept to study IT there, so it was a useful time for him.
Additionally we placed and assisted 50 Exhall Grange students from Years 11, 12 and 13 in a variety of work placements around Coventry where they worked in schools, shops and catering, among many other destinations.
The Exhall Grange students face a particular challenge – coping with anything from visual impairment, physical disabilities to complex medical needs and social and communication interaction difficulties, they have to overcome additional barriers to employment. A new survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation revealed that 95% of recruiters say that companies are ‘fearful’ or ‘unsure’ about hiring disabled candidates.
While 28% reported some progress with hiring people with disabilities, employers remain unsure about how to do this, and the majority of recruiters (67%) said that companies remain ‘fearful’ of hiring disabled people. 2% reported that they believe job opportunities have actually worsened for disabled people.
I think it’s really important that every child, able-bodied or not, has the opportunity to gain work experience, which is also a vital factor in helping to reduce youth unemployment.
Being ‘employable’ involves possessing many skills and attributes available to all. Think about punctuality, being friendly, asking questions – all essential for getting on in life and being ready to take on a job. I would heartily recommend that employers think about engaging disabled talent. I’m a great believer in meeting people in person, rather than judging from what’s written on a cv. Many people come across much better in the flesh!
After work experience, the next step can often be a traineeship or apprenticeship – and again here at PET-Xi we are very involved in these schemes. Our new apprenticeship programme is going from strength to strength and our social media and digital marketing apprentice Liam Patel is doing a great job in spreading the word.
As well as visiting and supporting all the Exhall Grange work experience students to see that they were settled and happy, Liam is having a busy time promoting our scheme. Recently he met businessman Tim Campbell, best known as the first ever apprentice taken on by Sir Alan Sugar’s in the TV show The Apprentice. Liam has also been filmed for a documentary being made by ‘Uni’s Not For Me’ – an online careers development resource providing independent advice for young people considering alternatives to university.
As GCSE students await their exam results later this month and consider their future options I can thoroughly recommend taking an apprenticeship. In fact I’m so sure it’s a good idea that my own son Jake is beginning an apprenticeship in business management here at PET-Xi in September.