Young People Face Work Experience Post Code Lottery

If you’re looking for work experience in some parts of the country, you could be far less likely to find work experience as your counterparts in other areas, according to a report published this week. We’ve got the vital statistics, and some advice if you’re in one of the work experience blackspots.

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The report, ‘Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge’, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), revealed this week that one in five employers in the UK say nothing could persuade them to offer work experience, which is essential for young people to build vital work-based skills.

This is despite the fact that 66% of businesses say experience is critical when recruiting new staff.

Approximately 40% of the UK’s 1.9 million unemployed people are under 25. Unlike other age groups, unemployment rates for the youngest workers remains stubbornly high.

In the Humber, with one of the highest unemployment rates for 16 to 25-year-olds in England, just 29% of employers offer work experience. Other blackspots highlighted were Cumbria, Leicester, Sheffield, Wiltshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Experts have called on the education system to fill the skills gap left by this lack of work experience opportunities.

Dame Fiona Kendrick, chief executive of Nestle UK and Ireland, and a Commissioner at the UKCES said: “Experience need not be two weeks of photocopying in the summer – mock interviews, talks in schools, site visits and mentoring can make the difference for a young person’s CV without taking too much time.”

Michael Davis, chief executive of UKCES said: “Contact with the world of work should be a component of all young people’s educational experience, and all schools and colleges should have links with at least one local business. That’s not altruism – it’s essential if we’re to create the skilled workers all business need to survive and thrive.

Rajeeb Dey, chief executive of website Enternships, said: ”If businesses want to hire more young people with the right skills they need to be part of the solution rather than bemoaning the lack of an appropriately skilled or prepared workforce." 

However, Rajeeb also suggested ways to get around the issue: “Young people need to think more creatively about how they can demonstrate these employability skills to a potential employer. There are a number of ways of doing this.

“Volunteering - get involved with local activities, volunteer for charities, for example work for your local charity shop. Join a society at school, college or university, or set one up if there isn't a one around something you are interested/passionate about. Perhaps there's a local youth council or club you could join?

“Get some part-time work in the evenings or weekends - working in bars, restaurants or retail stores can help develop your confidence and interpersonal skills particularly around customer service.”

Rajeeb also gave us some 21st Century advice: “Some companies offer ‘virtual internships’, the chance to undertake work experience on a remote or virtual basis, and may be based abroad. 

He also suggests having a global approach to work experience: “If you can, combine your holidays with some work abroad – either paid or voluntary – to demonstrate that you can take initiative and have a global mind-set, and that you’re open to new cultures: something employers look for in new recruits.”

Other ideas from Rajeeb included setting up your own social enterprise – “What better way to get experience than to just start?” – and freelancing, to earn cash by the hour while gaining valuable experience.

Check out the Start Up Loan Co and UnLtd for funding if you decide you want to start up your own enterprise. As Rajeeb said: “Who knows, all goes well you may well not even need a job?!”

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