98b Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6AW


Joanna Goddard, commercial growth strategist, is a highly respected business consultant based in the UK

Why don’t more businesses get work experience right?

Huge congratulations to Lyles & Sutherland – this dynamic high growth company is not only successful for their clients and team, but also proved successful for a school pupil. I know this because that pupil was my youngest child.

Having now seen three children through fourth year high school work experience week (Scotland), as well as listen to a tribe of their fellow friends over the last four years, I have been amazed to hear how varied the experiences can be. One friend of my son arrived at his placement to find that the first few staff members had no idea who he was upon arrival. Another simply was asked to do filing and make tea and coffee all week.

What was clear from the Lyles & Sutherland experience was:

  • That thought and planning had gone into why the pupil was joining them
  • That all of the team had been briefed and encouraged to make the pupil welcome.
  • A realistic work plan was ready for the pupil upon arrival.
  • Thought had been put into company for the pupil during lunch breaks.
  • The team were briefed that discussing career paths, courses of study and job specifications across the team were of interest.

I have helped many business over the years create an effective work experience programme and coupled with my experience as a parent would urge more companies to give this more consideration.

Some points to consider:

Why get involved?

  • Many team members feel a sense of purpose and reward from inspiring students – it can add to great job satisfaction
  • Skills honed through planning for, welcoming and informing a student can help develop communication skills for staff members that engage with clients
  • Local profile with schools, community organisations and parents can be raised
    Community engagement evidence can be relevant for tendering when referring to your CSR credentials
  • Media coverage can on occasion be secured
  • You can inspire the career of a student and motivate them to achieve the grades they need in their last few years of school – often enabling team members to enjoy ‘giving something back’
  • You can help a student decide that a chosen career is not right for them in reality and help prevent a university drop out at a later stage by helping make an informed course choice at the outset

Ten Top tips on how to get work experience right

  1. Discuss student placements with your team – who remembers them, the good the bad and the ugly.
  2. Task a small internal team to create a work experience programme, including all aspects of the business, time with a variety of people and different roles. It’s an effective team building task.
  3. Adopt a ‘modular’ approach in hourly blocks so should business needs or absence changes affect team availability, you can easily swap around component parts throughout the week.
  4. Prepare a couple of desktop exercises e.g. 10 questions you can find the answers for on the company website. This enables any periods that crop up when nobody is available for the student to remain active and learn something at the same time.
  5. Brain storm with your team what ‘TV image’ there is of your industry and make a list of important reality factors that any student should be aware of as they make career choices.
  6. Have a buddy system so that there is at least one person ready to be a companion during lunch and break times.
  7. Prepare an ‘about us’ welcome pack – a PDF or PowerPoint that can be sent in advance of the placement that can assure students or parents of expectations, help manage arrangements and leave a positive impression about your company. Include aspects such as what to wear, how to get there on public transport, and what most people do for lunch.
  8. Blog post-event to share your experience but be sure to liaise with the school about what details you can and cannot mention – e.g. perhaps the school, but not the pupils name.
  9. Do also remember to ensure that you have school and/or parental permission before sharing photos of a child on social media.
  10. Debrief your team on how successful the pupil found the experience and thank them for their contribution to the week.

Thank you Lyles & Sutherland!

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