Saturday, 7 January 2012

What... no work experience?

While at work on Thursday (5th), I received a press release from the Forum of Private Business and I was actually quite surprised by what I saw.

"Forum warns Government over plans to ditch school work experience"

Now, I don't usually get very political on this blog, but I am siding with the Forum on this one. Apparently, the Government has proposed to cut compulsory work experience and its funding in schools, and I really do not see what this will achieve? 

I did work experience at Barratts Shoes when I was 15 (in Year 10 at secondary school) and I feel it did me the world of good on so many levels. I was incredibly shy at school, and I really don't know why, but I've always been the sort of person to apply myself to whatever I do, so when I chose this work experience I was incredibly nervous but ready to tackle it. My week consisted of dusting shelves, hoovering at the end of the day, collecting shoes from the stockroom, observing the sales staff and even had a go at selling shoes myself to the customers. All of the people were lovely and I was feeling quite sad when the time came for me to leave; I really felt like I had achieved something.

Then, to my delight, the manager asked if I would go back when I was 16 and work as a Saturday girl! I was so proud; not only had I completed something that seemed so nerve-wracking to me but I had been offered a job! So of course, I took it, returned when I was 16 and worked there for a very happy three and a half years before, unfortunately, the shop closed. My confidence really grew as I served more and more customers and faced more and more problems, and I truly valued my wages at the end of each month. I learned to balance my time between my college work and part-time job, and I just grew as a person. Best of all, I made some excellent friends that I still remain close with today.

And this is why I'm baffled as to why the Government would propose this? Surely, in an age were there are over 1 million unemployed young people, either because of lack of job opportunities or just laziness, a taste of what life is like after school can only be a good thing - what will inspire them after their GCSEs? It's hard enough trying to figure out what you want to do when you leave school, but just a week of work experience could give them an idea at least. And who knows where just one week could lead?...

School years come to an end so quickly, so how will these pupils know if they are ready for the working world? Ok, there are some young people who may take this on themselves and find their own work experience in the field they think they'd like to work in, but for others who may be shy, the government may be taking away a valuable lesson.

 The Forum's Head of Campaigns, Jane Bennett, said:  “Our training and skills panel research shows our members already believe young people in the UK are largely unprepared for the workplace. New starters frequently arrive with few or no basic skills, and need guidance on even simple things such as appropriate dress code and punctuality – the very basics of a work ethic. Business owners also frequently point out that young people are taught no first aid or health and safety skills, and together these types of inadequacies make them very resource intensive." (Taken from the press release.)

As I said, I don't usually get very political on this blog and I have yet to see the Government's reasoning for this, but I am interested to see what you all think. Maybe I have these thoughts because I happen to have had a very good experience; for me, this worked and I believe it can work for many others too.


  1. I agree that work experience is important but I think there are problems with the current system. Your time at Barretts definitely sounds like a good one and you're not going to be alone there but for every positive account, I reckon there's going to be atleast twice as many negative ones.

    I had work experience at school and got placed in the accounts department at my local council (NOT what I requested!) It was the most tedious thing I've ever had to go through. I didn't get to do anything, just sit and listen to their stories about how miserable their jobs were and how wonderful the guy they had last year on work experience was (he used to make them tea all day: I didn't know how to make tea). They even encouraged me to take longer lunches(!) A friend of mine got placed in a hairdressing salon and all they had her do all day long was sweep hair - they barely even interacted with her. Obviously you wouldn't expect to cut actual hair or anything but surely there are ways of getting young people in placements more involved? The problem is too many employers don't take an active interest in what the process of delivering work experience actually means - it's supposed to be a chance for young people to get a feel for what it's like to work. I don't know... Are things better these days? I like the IDEA of work experience: I remember how excited I was on my first day but what a disappointment it was! On paper it's a brilliant idea and even if you just get understanding of basic skills from the experience (like arriving on time and being polite), it's going to be a worthwhile thing to offer BUT employers need to be screened and guided; trained if necessary. It's surely better to keep the system in place and just address the problem of trying to make work experience more proactive and beneficial? I guess all that requires more time and money so not sure the future of work experience is looking too bright really...

  2. I think you're definitely right there, I know I was very lucky with my placement but I completely understand were you're coming from - placements definitely need to be productive for everyone! I agree with making employers more knowledgeable about this which is why it is such a shame that the funding might be cut! Such a shame.

    And thank you for reading and commenting!


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