It is hard to remember a time in higher education when work experience wasn't important.
Placements and internship provision have become a normal part of the university landscape and employers say that evidence of work experience is a crucial component of any successful application.
Each year, the Institute of Student Employers’ membership survey shows an increase in the number of graduates taking up permanent opportunities with firms in which they had already undertaken work experience.
There is still much work to be done to ensure that students can access work experience opportunities and, even more importantly, convert their experiences into meaningful employability value.
It’s not as though there is a lack of effort and will on the practitioner and provider side. Careers and employability services devote considerable time and energy into sourcing opportunities and connecting students with employers. Employers themselves understand the value that placement students and interns bring to their businesses. Yet still too many students become graduates without acquiring this precious commodity.
The missing link is probably SMEs. Larger recruiters have the resources, infrastructure and brand recognition to both provide structured placement opportunities and attract students to them. Smaller firms, who constitute the majority of the UK economy and for whom more than a third of graduates will eventually work, often struggle to attract students – and may not even provide work experience opportunities in the first place.
As the Universities UK agency responsible for graduate careers and employability, Prospects HECSU welcomes innovative initiatives that seek to expand the provision of opportunities to students and graduates.
That’s why we are very pleased to be working with Placer. We will be contributing work experience, apprenticeship and graduate opportunities to students via the Placer campus app. It’s the sort of collaboration that we find ourselves doing more and more. Sometimes service providers have to work together to ensure the best outcomes for students.
Prospects HECSU has been active in the work experience space since 1998 when we launched Prospects Work Experience magazine. In 2002 we took over the National Council for Work Experience, an advisory and lobbying body that introduced a kite mark standard for work experience and held an annual award scheme that celebrated outstanding work experience provision.
Prospects.ac.uk provides an indispensable repository of advice and guidance on work experience as well as access to opportunities, as does the annual Prospects Student Career Guide publication.
We welcome the advent of the work experience revolution.
Chris Rea is Business Services Manager at Prospects