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

Time to take Work Experience by the horns as the millennial debate rumbles

While the challenge of ‘managing millennials’ is creating a viral storm across social media and boardrooms (if you haven’t yet heard Simon Sinek’s definitive interview on ‘expectant millennials’ it’s well worth a watch) what are we, the current business leaders, doing to help combat this longer term? It’s time to take work experience by the horns as the millennial debate rumbles…

Way before graduates reach the workplace, responsible businesses have a role to play in today’s work experience programmes.

Having now seen three children through High School work experience (Scotland), as well as listening to a tribe of their fellow friends over recent years, I have been amazed to hear how varied the experiences can be.

One friend’s son arrived at his placement to find that staff members had no idea who he was upon arrival. Another simply was asked to do filing and make tea and coffee all week.

Expectant? Well, I for one feel they should expect more than that.

What I have learned as a parent and as a manger within businesses overseeing delivery of effective work experience is:

  • Thought and planning need to go into why the pupil is joining you.
  • All of your team should be briefed and encouraged to make the pupil welcome.
  • A realistic work plan should be ready for the pupil upon arrival.
  • Thought should be put into company for the pupil during lunch breaks, logistics, socially and cost wise.
  • The team should be briefed that discussing career paths, courses of study and job specifications across the team can also be of interest.

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

Some points to consider:

Why get involved?

  • Job Satisfaction – Many team members find purpose and reward in inspiring students. It can add to great job satisfaction
  • Client Communication Skills – Skills honed through planning . Welcoming and informing a student can help develop communication skills for staff members who engage with clients
  • CSR evidence – 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 – Media coverage can on occasion be secured
  • Giving Back – 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’
  • Giving Crucial Support – You can help a student decide that a chosen career is not right for them in reality and help prevent a university dropout at a later stage by helping make an informed course choice at the outset
  • Make an impression – you never know who your student knows!

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. Create a Project Team – 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 – use hourly blocks so should business needs or absence changes affect team availability, you can easily swap around component parts throughout the week efficiently.
  4. Prepare a couple of desktop exercises – e.g. 10 questions you can find the answers to 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. Brainstorm 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 – Have 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 – Share your experience and be sure to liaise with the school about what details you can and cannot mention – e.g. perhaps the school’s, but not the pupil’s name.
  9. Agree permissions – 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 – cover how successful the pupil found the experience and thank them for their contribution to the week.

Time efficient business development comes in many shapes and forms. Work experience is a key tool to develop local relationships for your business and your team. Embrace it, enjoy it, and do more of it. Would your work experience pupil deem you worthy of a selfie on the way out?