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New £2 million scheme to re-invent work experience for young people

12 Feb 2024

More than 25,000 young people across country to benefit from pilot programme testing new approaches to workplace experiences.

  • Pilot will be launchpad for extending high quality workplace experiences for all young people.
  • Young people will have multiple touch points with employers across the school year rather than just one
  • There will be an emphasis on those young people missing out and new fast- growing industries like green and digital
  • New Careers & Enterprise Company scheme delivered with partners Speakers for Schools and Springpod.

A new programme to boost work experience for young people, backed by nearly £2m from the Department for Education, is launching today.

The announcement comes amid growing calls for changes to traditional work experience. More than a third (34%) of the UK business population is based in London and the South East, yet many talented young people are all over the country are often struggling to access work experience – particularly those in coastal and rural communities.

While research shows 65 per cent of Year 13s currently have had access to a workplace experience, there is widespread recognition current programmes are not reaching enough young people – particularly in disadvantaged communities - or reflecting the changing nature of jobs today.

There is now an appetite to rethink models so that experiences work for more young people and employers alike.

The new programme will be led by The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), the national body for careers education, and run in partnership with Speakers for Schools and Springpod.

More than 25,000 young people around the country will take part in piloting three different models, designed to move beyond the traditional one off, once a year event and involve multiple and diverse experiences across the school year.

This will broaden the range of young people’s experiences and offer flexibility to employers to better meet their needs.

The three models being tested are:

  • Virtual workplace experiences for more than 1,000 schools in coastal and rural communities - providing access to wider national networks of employers outside their local community. This will include online programmes with household names like Airbus, JLR and Siemens; interactive skills workshops led by industry professionals and groups of 25-30 students doing real-life three day projects, including ongoing feedback and assessment.
  • Breaking down barriers to high quality workplace experiences for disadvantaged young people in six Careers Hubs across England, including Stoke, Manchester, Devon, Leicester, Kent and Hertfordshire – levelling the playing field and ensuring all students have opportunities.
  • Targeted workplace experiences focused on roles in future growth sectors across seven Careers Hubs in the North of England – green skills in the North East and digital skills, with an emphasis on the gaming industry, in the North West.

The goal is to use the evidence of what works best from the programme to re-invent high-quality workplace experiences for young people, providing multiple and meaningful interactions with employers over the course of the school year and their education journey.

The virtual element of the programme is a response to the fact that young people in rural or coastal communities face unique challenges - with fewer local and large employers to access - and can often be left behind. This approach also reflects the realities of today’s hybrid workplace.

Oli de Botton, CEO of the Careers & Enterprise Company said:

“Our aim is to help reinvent work experience for the modern day so that it is works for more young people, and more employers.

“In practice this means making sure experiences are well structured and ongoing; opportunities for young people to gain new skills and businesses to get to know their future workforce. It means focusing on young people who are currently missing out and connecting experiences to the industries of the future.

“Thanks to the hard work of schools, colleges and employers there has been progress in careers education over the past few years. Working with great partners Speakers for Schools and Springpod, this scheme will build on what works so that we can help more young people find their best next step.”

Nick Brook, CEO, Speakers for Schools said:

"Talent is spread evenly across the country, but opportunity is not. We at Speakers for Schools believe that high-quality work experience should be a right, not a privilege, for state-education children. Access to potential future employers should never be dependent upon who mum and dad know, or where you live.

"We are thrilled to partner with CEC to remove the barrier of geography by delivering virtual work experience placements in rural and coastal communities. This partnership will enable thousands more young people gain valuable insights into the world of work and help open doors to employers that were previously closed. "

Sam Hyams, Springpod CEO said:

“We firmly believe that every young person deserves an equal opportunity to achieve their brightest future and an absolutely crucial pillar of their ability to do this is access to meaningful work experience. That’s why we’re delighted to be able to help coordinate this effort with the CEC to further our mission of reaching every young person to give them access to valuable careers education.

“The online accessibility of Virtual Work Experience will help break down the barriers posed by location and lack of professional networks that young people in rural and coastal schools often face. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the student and teacher feedback about this project in the hope that we can make a real difference to these target communities.”