Making work experience worth it

With good planning work experience can be beneficial to student and employerCOMPANIES that agree to take on work experience students have been warned they need to plan for the occasion properly in order to ensure both parties get the most out of the experience.

The initial generosity from firms willing to help school leavers and graduates can turn sour without measures in place to ensure it is not a wasted exercise, according to human resource directors and colleges.

Realistic jobs, useful tasks and integration into the workplace are important for a successful relationship with the student – and it will help the company prosper too.

Bales Worldwide has a wide-ranging approach to work experience and takes on graduates and school leavers to give them a taste of how the industry works. It offers year-long stints and shorter periods.

Human resources director Vivienne Thorn said companies that take on work experience students should treat them as part of the team, and should set well defined goals and parameters at the outset.

“We see the students as valued members of the team and they take part in meetings,” she said. “A number then come back to us at some other time.”

Thorn said it is important that the company gives the person on work experience an induction course.

Julie Humphreys, a senior instructor and teacher at Sussex Downs College, which has an on-campus agency, Eclipse Travel, said: “Good planning and making sure the person on work experience is fully integrated into the team is important.

When companies get it right, they get more out of the student and both parties value the experience.”

10 top tips for companies taking on work experience students

  • Try to keep the same staff contact for the student
  • Form a work plan for the student
  • Tell all staff about the student
  • Define roles
  • Give the student a staff buddy
  • Allow them some real live work experience
  • Be positive and helpful constantly
  • Don’t assume they will ask for work, keep enquiring about their tasks
  • Remember the experience is showcasing your company
  • Don’t make them the tea boy or girl

10 top tips for work experience students

  • Find out about the organisation you will be doing work experience for
  • Think about what you want to get out of it
  • Be punctual
  • Be willing to learn
  • Ask questions constantly
  • Pitch in your own ideas
  • Show enthusiasm with all tasks, no matter how dull
  • Don’t be afraid to try new methods of work to be more efficient
  • Integrate with the team around you
  • Don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs

Case study: work experience at Travel Weekly

Fifteen-year-old Joe Riches, son of Libra Holidays sales and marketing director Paul Riches, did two weeks’ work experience at Travel Weekly this month.

Here’s his account of how he spent his time:

Joel Riches at Travel Weeklywork experience feature 200706 j richesDoing work experience at Travel Weekly’s offices gave me a real insight into the working world and more specifically, a better understanding of the travel industry.

Arriving at Travel Weekly for my first day I was extremely nervous, but I was welcomed warmly by the Travel Weekly team.

I expected to be doing some mundane jobs, such as making the tea and filing. Instead the news team gave me jobs that were interesting, and I was chuffed when some of my pieces made it into the paper.

I was taken through all the various aspects involved in creating each week’s edition, from start, to when it’s printed and distributed to the travel industry.

I spent time with different teams, from recruitment advertising, through to marketing and sales.

Probably the most interesting aspect of my experience was watching the sub-editors design and put together the pages for the paper.

I never knew how much detail was put into the creation of the pages to make them look just perfect.

big quote marks - closeMy experience at Travel Weekly has been thoughly enjoyable. Now I no longer have to reply “I don’t have a clue!” when people used to ask me what I want to do when I’m older.

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