Four steps to make work experience for all a reality | Nacro

Four steps to make work experience for all a reality


Dan Walsh, Chief Marketing Officer, Speakers For Schools writes for Nacro as part of the Education Week blog series.

Four steps to make work experience for all a reality

It’s been over two months since 150 politicians, business leaders, educators, students and celebrities gathered in London to launch Work Experience For All. The national campaign launched by social mobility charity, Speakers for Schools, set out to make work experience a universal right for every young person, regardless of where they live, what school they attend, or who mum and dad know.

Through celebrity collaborations, 1000s of billboards, cut-through slogans, a social media takeover and political engagement, we campaigned to ensure that every state school student has two or more high-quality work experience placements by the time they are 18. But with a myriad of crises out there to worry about, here’s how Speakers for Schools made our voice heard on the importance of work experience.

Do your research

We know work experience hasn’t been mandatory in England since 2012, but what impact has that had? Well, we surveyed over 2,000 young people and two-thirds of them (aged 16-18) could not recall doing any work experience while in education.

Here’s what else our research found:

  • Multiple work experiences can substantially reduce the chance of a young person becoming Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET),
  • Each work experience taken part in equates to a salary uplift of over £1000
  • Work experience develops essential skills like communication and teamwork.

…and our final report, carried out by the think tank, the Social Market Foundation, calculated an annual cost of £75m to deliver two work experiences per state-school student, which only amounts 0.1% of the Schools Budget.

We knew students needed support, and now with clearly defined benefits of work experience, we had to tell the world about it.

Harnessing the power of role models

Renowned chef Tom Kerridge, business leader Deborah Meaden, TV presenter Steph McGovern, comedian Guz Khan and ITV political editor Robert Peston all came together to recount their own work experience stories and how it shaped their successful paths. Their personal, heartfelt stories reinforced the importance of doing work experience as a tool for fuelling aspiration and ambition.

“Bingo calling, pot washing, Leading ponies up Minehead seafront. What it did do was lead me to be an entrepreneur. I still sometimes think, I know why I know that — I know that because of the bingo.” – Deborah Meaden

The power of recognisable, sector-leading figures that shared their personal stories about work experience became instantly relatable to parents, teachers, students, businesses and everyone else in between.

Stop and read this!

Through pro-bono partnerships with Clear Channel and Alight Media, we chose to depict some of the most shocking stats and narrative from our research as bold headlines that would stress the urgency of the situation for everyone that walks past.

‘DON’T LET THE NEPO BABIES WIN!’ and “‘NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY” SAID NO-ONE EVER’ jumped out from over 1000 billboards across England.

The sites generated over 20 million impressions at locations such as bus stops, motorway billboards, shopping centre screens and more. But walking past a message like this would capture your attention momentarily; more needs to be done to inspire action.

Taking over social media

To really stand out, we ‘took over’ LinkedIn. Our target was the professional community which naturally includes parents, employers, and educators. To kick start the takeover, we asked our staff, speakers, trustees and key players to temporarily change their profiles to their teenage photo and work experience job title and ask their network to follow suit.

The joy of seeing teenage photos pop up on your profile and sharing your work experience story became irresistible; even the bad, funny and boring work experience stories were brilliant to see.

Next steps

Our research was referenced throughout the latest Education Select Committee report, which made many recommendations that mirrored our campaign asks. And we continue to speak to policymakers, employers, educators and parents about the need for quality, accessible work experience for all state school children, regardless of where they live or who they know.

Find out more about Speakers for Schools and how you can get involved here.