Last summer we were pleased to take on a work experience student from a local grammar school. The placement only lasted a week but it was as positive an experience for us as it was for the student (see July 2015’s post: “Experience a work experience student in the workplace”). While Yasmin gained insights in working in an agency/small business environment, we were able to set her tasks that gave her practical experience and contributed to our understanding of a new business direction.
This year we were approached by Matthew, a year 11 student from the same local school, interested in spending his full 2 weeks work placement with us. This, again, was a mutually enjoyable experience, and re-affirmed our view that these 16 year olds are work-ready, not work-shy as is often suggested. Please read Matthew’s account of his time with us below.
Compulsory work experience for all students aged 14 – 16 years was scrapped in 2012, so the decision to continue offering this service lies with local education authorities and learning trusts. In the county of Buckinghamshire placements happen just after GCSE exams are over and earlier in the school year students are encouraged to approach the businesses where they would like to gain some work experience. For those students who have a career path in mind, and even for those who have no idea, the process of application and subsequent placement gives them confidence in the workplace and a better perspective on the type of work or further studies they may pursue. Moreover, the work placement looks good on a CV. But not all students are motivated to participate and some lack the confidence to make the initial approach. Buckinghamshire Learning Trust steps in and finds work experience opportunities for them doing work that plays to each individual’s strengths, is in a safe environment, and mutually benefits employer and student.
Around this time of year (Summer/Autumn) newspapers fill column inches with articles which condemn students’ lack of workplace skills. They publish studies that describe the increasing gap between student and employers expectations. So placing students in a work environment (preferably of their choice) while they are still at school must surely be a beneficial eye-opener for them? It gives them the opportunity to relate at least some of their retained knowledge to the work environment and an idea of the type of skills they need, as well as the notion of working with people of different ages and abilities. It also serves to remind students of the benefits of earning and apprenticeships in the face of rising university fees and student loans. Work experience helps students make better informed decisions, even if they are only based on 2 weeks’ work.
I have just finished two weeks of work experience at WDG research and feel that I have gained a valuable insight into market research. I decided to try and secure a work placement there as I didn’t really know what career I wanted to follow once I left school and market research seemed like an interesting field to investigate, which I had not previously encountered.
On arriving at WDG I was greeted with a small team who immediately made me feel welcome. In the first few days I spent some time with each member of WDG, learning about the different areas of market research. First I did some quantitative analysis of data collected from a survey. This involved looking at how likely different demographics were to give certain answers and was interesting as it was different to anything that I have done before.
I then did some qualitative analysis, creating charts to show responses to various adverts from three focus groups. This gave me an interesting view of how different age groups respond to the same material.
Another task that I worked on was using a business intelligence website to find potential clients for WDG. This was an interesting experience as there was a wide range of articles from firms in different industries that wanted to find out how to increase their market share. It also felt like I was doing something that was genuinely useful to the firm after all they have done for me.
As well as the insight into market research that WDG has given me, I have also been given a view into the inner workings of a small firm which is very different to what I would have imagined and can only be fully appreciated through personal experience.
Overall I would fully recommend doing work experience, as it has been a unique look at a work environment and the team at WDG has allowed me to gain the most out of my two weeks by finding an interesting range of activities for me to work on.