Making Work Experience A Positive Experience

My Dad recently reminded me of when I did two week’s work experience in an HR Department.  It was a dreadful experience and after two weeks I had resolutely decided “I am NEVER going to have an office job”.  The problem was that my two weeks with an International IT company were not planned.  I was left for hours doing nothing, and so I learnt little.*   I now find it quite ironic that I work in HR.  It is not as a result of the experience I had as a teenager.

Considerable time has passed since, and there is a wealth of literature about how to make Work Experience a meaningful experience and the business reasons for doing so.  It is particularly important in the NHS, with its ageing workforce, that we capture the idealism of the younger generations so that they will actively want to work within healthcare once they leave education. 

However, I still see poor practice:   for example, I recently saw a 15 year old, sitting on a chair in the corner of the office (as there are no spare desks), sending out mail shots.  He had been stuffing envelopes for two whole days.  He obviously wasn’t happy, but he didn’t complain.   Although confident amongst their peers, most 15 year olds can be intimidated by the adults that surround them.  How many Work Experience students will speak up and demand a better “experience” during their two weeks with your organisation? 

We owe it to the younger generations to provide them with a structured programme, where there are defined learning outcomes.  Work Experience is just as much for the student as it is for the organisation.   This approach can’t be created overnight; it will require investment of time and energy (and possibly cost implications too).   As local employers, we need to get it right, otherwise it will affect our recruitment in years to come.

Work Experience isn’t an excuse for “slave labour” for two weeks.   Work Experience is about giving school leavers a positive “experience” of your organisation. 

*Being the kind of person I am, I didn’t waste my time:  I got to meet Martin Coogan who at the time worked at the company:  For those who aren’t into Manchester Indie Music of the late 80s / early 90s –  Martin (who is also the brother of Steve Coogan, comedian) was the Lead Singer of The Mock Turtles of “Can You Dig It?” fame.  At the time I was more into music than being in an office, and I managed to land a day “hanging-out” with The Mock Turtles in their recording studios in Stockport.  Cool hey?


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