What is work experience?
This is a 'does what it says on the tin' moment. Work experience is exactly that – experience of what it is like to work for a company, in a professional environment.
Unlike other school leaver programmes, such as apprenticeships, sponsored degree programmes and traineeships, student work experience schemes aren't quite as officially structured.
Instead, work experience places are generally intended to offer young people like you a taster of what it's like to work for different businesses in various industries.
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What's so good about work experience?
Work experience placements, even if they only last for a week or two or are summer work experience schemes, are basically a great way for you to open your eyes to world of professional work.
That may be a little way off yet, but it is competitive out there you know, so anything you can do to gain some new skills and insights into what it is actually like to work for a company will be useful in the future.
Why? Well, the more work experience you have tucked away, the more awareness you'll have of what is required to work as a professional. You'll be more aware and more skilful than someone with no practical work experience, putting you at a huge advantage when it comes to applying for school leaver programmes.
Additionally, you'll be able to stick all this great work experience down onto a CV, and the better your CV, the more likely it is you'll attract the eye of recruiters when it comes to looking for jobs, apprenticeships or school leaver schemes.
Someone with work experience under their belt will appeal more than someone who has none – so put yourself in a strong position while you can!
How can I find work experience?
To find work experience, make use of your connections. Do you or your family or friends know anyone who runs a business, or any local companies that take on people for student work experience placements?
If yes, make use of your contacts. If not, why not write, email or phone some local businesses to find out if any of them do offer opportunities, even if it's only for a day or week. It all counts!
Of course, we also have a wonderful resource called the internet, so have a little search for companies offering work experience and see what pops up.
What companies offer work experience and in what industries?
If you need some work experience placement ideas, just get an eyeful of the following massive companies that offer young people the chance to get involved in their schemes.
- British Airways offers students who are in full-time education the chance to undertake five day work experience placements at the aviation company.
- Global aerospace and technology company Lockheed Martin offers students the chance to get involved in two week unpaid work experience placements.
- National broadcaster Channel 4 runs work experience for anyone older than 16 who wants to gain some experience working in a media company.
- Similarly, internationally-famous broadcaster the BBC offers work experience taster schemes for young people in locations across the UK.
- Even the government gets involved! The House of Commons offers work experience to secondary school students and young people over 14 and up to 18 years of age.
So as you can see from the world famous names above, there are great chances to get involved in media work experience placements and engineering, technology and aviation opportunities, among many other industries.
When should you try and find work experience?
Generally speaking, companies are more likely to take on students and school leavers for short work experience placements between the ages of 14 and 18.
This is before a lot of school leaver options like apprenticeships, sponsored degree schemes and university courses kick into action, giving you the chance to squeeze in some work experience first!
How can you give yourself a good chance of landing some work experience?
As we sort of touched upon earlier, a lot of work experience schemes aren't all that structured – or at least massively advertised.
So it is a good idea to be proactive and approach companies, if only to find out if they have any openings.
This doesn't just have to be locally – there's nothing stopping you from contacting larger businesses and finding out if there are any opportunities there too.
So our main advice would be – be proactive and get your CV out there. And make sure that CV is up to scratch. So get out there and find some good work experience placements!