Why we encourage work experience

Author: Elise Temple Published:

When young people come to our education centres, we work with them so they can achieve vital qualifications including English and maths. We also help them develop a wider range of skills that improve their chances, including helping them to succeed in job interviews and help build confidence in the workplace.

This is why work experience is a vital aspect of what we do and is something that we believe should be available to all.

Why is it important?

Soft skills development focuses on a range of key ‘life’ skills that employers routinely tell us are essential in the workplace including time management, communication, teamworking and how to keep themselves and others safe. Young people from higher socio-economic backgrounds are consistently proven to be better equipped in these areas than their disadvantaged peers.

Work experience in the right environment and with the right support helps develop these vital soft skills. Our education centres work collaboratively with a range of employers and partners to deliver vital work experience. We believe work experience is one of the most effective ways to help our learners prepare for their next steps, build confidence, and open their eyes to the wide range of work opportunities that are available to them.

Some of our learners do work experience with us across Nacro, where they work with our colleagues to participate in real, simulated, and virtual work experiences, such as working on our partners’ farms or in our catering kitchens. Others have worked in our head offices, putting their skillsets into practice but also being able to work in a professional environment within the safety of Nacro.

To help develop these key workplace skills in new and innovative ways, we have been involved in the development of a revolutionary, award-winning Artificial Intelligence (AI) programme. The programme is focussed on providing experiences to our learners, who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds, exposing them to workplace scenarios that aid wider skills development.

So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, our experience is showing that work experience placements are becoming harder to come by. The Government’s newly introduced T-Levels have a requirement for significant work experience, and we are seeing employers opting to give work placements to those on T-levels ahead of others. It’s great to see work placements being built into vocational focussed qualifications, but we need to make sure those young people not doing T-Levels don’t miss out.

Many of the young people in our education centres are studying qualifications up to and including Level 2, which are vital stepping stones onto further learning or work. We know how important a role work placements can play at this level in supporting young people’s development and aspiration. But with the political force sitting behind T-Levels, are we are again at risk of overlooking the crucial role of Level 2 qualifications, and work placements within them?

We should be ingraining work experience at all levels of qualifications and encouraging employers to make more work placements available to all young people so those from not yet at Level 3 and those from more disadvantaged backgrounds are not left behind.

What can be done?

We would like to see the Government incentivise work placements, and promoting the recruitment of people from a range of starting points. There is already a discussion around incentivising those giving work placements to T-Level students, but this should be extended to all.

For young people studying vocational Level 2 qualifications, the Government can commit to protecting the accessibility and quality of these pathways by embedding work place experiences and skill development as part of the course.

Work experience can raise aspirations, provide opportunities, and build confidence. We need to look at building for young people’s futures, now.