Work Experience Is Crucial For Students And Small Businesses

The summer term, in it’s lovely sunny glory, is traditionally when secondary school students undertake work experience. However, compulsory work experience for English students at Key Stage 4 was axed in 2012, and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are concerned.

Some students have lost their first taste of the real world of work without it. It also means that small firms have less opportunity to connect with schools, the community, and potential future employees. It’s not ideal!

A crucial stage of learning

The FSB says work experience is ‘a crucial stage of learning for students’, and it’s calling for it to be made available to all students in some form.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry says work experience is not just important for its role in preparing young people for the workplace. It also plays a part in safeguarding the future of the UK’s workforce.

“Smaller firms are more likely to hire people from harder to reach backgrounds, which is why the reintroduction of work experience would be a valuable leg up for students looking to experience work and small firms looking to plug their recruitment gaps in the future,”

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The FSB’s report ‘Small Business, Big Heart’ released in February found that 80% of small businesses are actively involved in their community. 41% offer work experience, either as part of the recruitment process or through community outreach. But, Mike Cherry says, it’s time to take it to the next level.

“Small firms want to be able to take on more young people for work experience, but they need to have the support in place to liaise with schools to ensure both parties can make the most of the experience.”

Helping small firms help others

The FSB says the Government should recognise the roles that small businesses play in local communities. They’re so valuable in giving young people an idea of the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workplace. It makes everyone’s lives just that little bit easier, which is something we’re pretty keen on.

The ‘Small Business, Big Heart’ report called for the reintroduction of compulsory work experience which:

  • allows for flexible models that work for smaller businesses
  • supports smaller businesses in taking on apprentices
  • incentivise smaller businesses to deliver work placements (by matching the industry placement fund for providers of T-levels with a fund for smaller employers)
  • gives more support for employer engagement, with a recommendation that the Department for Education (DfE) should extend travel bursary eligibility. It would help young people under 16 to access a wider range of employers, and publicise the fund more widely.

The FSB is now recommending that head teachers and career leads should have the freedom to engage with smaller businesses and their communities. The use of career and company enterprise advisors could develop appropriate work experience opportunities for young people.

Does your small business offer work experience, and if not, what factors prevent you from doing so?