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What does excellence in experiences of the workplace look like?

04 May 2023

Providing young people with experiences of the workplace is a hot topic of debate. With the latest research showing work experience levels returning to pre-pandemic levels, there is renewed focus on how to ensure the system is set up for success, can maximise the opportunities work experience presents young people and business and build sustained relationships between employers and education.

Careers Excellence Seminars are an initiative of the Careers & Enterprise Company supported by The Gatsby Foundation. They bring together leaders from the employer and education communities with young people to share expertise, highlight innovation and identify practical solutions. The focus for this seminar – the second in the series – was how to deliver powerful and meaningful experiences of the workplace for young people.

Below is a summary of some of the key outputs from the discussions, alternatively you can watch the seminar online now.

Work experience should move beyond a just a one off once a year event and involve multiple and diverse experiences across the year. That was the key the key message of the Careers Excellence Seminar hosted by TFL at the London Transport Museum.

There is now opportunity for modern meaningful work experience to extend and build on the fixed-point week-long model that is familiar to many schools, students and businesses to include more regular contact points and experiences with employers across the year.

When it comes to helping young people find their best next step, it’s important they have the opportunity to explore the world of work as widely as possible, to learn about themselves, develop new skills and choose the direction that’s right for them.

To do this effectively they need multiple and varied experiences with a wide range of employers and different roles over the course of their education journey.

The change towards more flexible and frequent experiences of the workplace is being driven by the rapidly evolving careers education and business landscape, which is shaping innovative new approaches. The Gatsby Benchmarks say every pupil should have first-hand experiences of the workplace to encourage exploration and expand their networks.

The panellists shared a number of key practical insights on how to deliver high quality experiences of the workplace for young people today:

  • Making a personal connection is important. Ensure time is invested in getting to know what motivates and interests students, so opportunities to experience the workplace are built around the whole person and targeted towards their specific needs.
  • Employers emphasised that running work experience at one fixed time every year was challenging, particularly given the concentrated and compressed demand it placed on them. Working through a Careers Hub made it easier to coordinate employer and school engagement over more extended periods and better align supply and demand.
  • Take time to build relationships with employers that sustain support over the long-term through Careers Hubs. Regular contact and engagement helps in the planning of meaningful work experience programmes and builds employer confidence in working with young people. They can also work with teachers to connect the curriculum with workplace skills and help shape lessons.
  • For SEND students in particular, preparation and personalisation is essential. Conversations with employers about the specific needs and qualities of each student helps break down barriers (often perceived rather than real) and prepare the ground. Introducing the student to the employer and workplace helps set them up for success.
  • The education sector should emphasise the win-win for employers. Not only are they helping develop the skills of their future workforce, they are showcasing their business, closing skills gaps, building talent pipelines, increasing diversity and enhancing the skills of their existing teams through community engagement.
  • A mix of in-person and virtual experiences of the workplace is here to stay and offers real benefits. It helps business offer meaningful experiences to a wider network of young people across wider geographies and allow for access to businesses that may not based locally. It is also directly connected to the skills needed in the hybrid workplace of today.
  • A whole school and college approach is vital - involving all teams in collaborating on the planning and practice of linking learning to the workplace and managing work experience programmes, so it becomes embedded in the culture.


Meet the Panel 

Watch the live recording

Further resources to help you deliver engaging and meaningful experiences of the workplace


Resources to support you

If you are a school, college or employer, visit our Resources Directory for further information and support on how to deliver meaningful experiences of the workplace.

Find out more

Don't miss out

Watch the live recording of our second Careers Excellence Seminar and share with your networks.

Watch now