I was lucky. During my education years I got not one but three opportunities for work experience. That’s three more than most. Why lucky? Because it helped shape my decisions as to what I wanted to do when I left education and, crucially, what it meant to have to work at my chosen profession. More people should have that opportunity.

My first experience was as a fourteen year old when I spent a week at Amey Roadstone (as they were known then). This involved doing various jobs such as loading magnetic tapes and data entry that then spewed out instructions on punched tape. I was transfixed. At the end of the week the person I was working for called me in and gave me five pounds, which was a huge sum to me then.

Then, while I was at college, I worked over the summer at the Rutherford Appleton Labs in Harwell again carrying out various IT related tasks. I remember catching the blue staff bus that went from our village to the offices feeling like a proper employee.

Finally, for my year in industry during my degree course, I worked for IBM assigned to the quality team in a disk manufacturing plant just outside of Portsmouth. This team had one member who spent his whole week producing management reports by hand. This was time consuming and meant that the data they contained was up to a week out of date when received by management. My job was to replicate these reports as a program and free up the team member. It took me many months but at the end of it the program ran overnight once a week and the reports were automatically emailed out. Mission accomplished and with it a huge sense of achievement!

Three roles that gave me a tremendous amount of experience of what working in IT was like and showed that this was definitely something I wanted to do.

So it is clear what the individual gets from work experience but why should your organisation do this? Here are four great reasons:

  1. You’ll get a warm fuzzy glow from doing so by giving an individual a step up.
  2. It is an opportunity to get that project that you had been meaning to start off the ground.
  3. It’s a way to check out potentially employees.
  4. And it is cost effective.

It would be easy to be dismissive at this point saying that you either haven’t the time to invest into providing work experience or that the youth of today don’t have the necessary skills. Neither is the case in my experience. I have met some fantastic people over the years that organisations I have worked for have offered work experience and, crucially, we have got so much more back from a little investment.

So many young people are graduating with no idea of what they want to do. All are degree educated but none are equipped for working life. Giving them some proper work experience will help shape their decisions and hopefully give them focus. As Confucius said choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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