How work experience can boost the bottom line for SMEs

why work experience benefits buisnessesThis week (5-9 March) marks National Careers Week, it highlights the importance of good careers education and support for young people leaving education. The week brings together schools, colleges and universities with employers to showcase best practice in careers guidance.

Work experience can help kickstart a career for young people, but it also offers many great opportunities for employers too. If managed effectively, a well-structured work experience programme can deliver returns from bringing in fresh insights, through to training the next generation of talent with the skills your business need. So, this National Careers Week we’re looking at how and why more SMEs can reap the rewards of offering work experience.

Here are five top reasons you should offer work experience to help future-proof your talent pipeline and, ultimately, boost your bottom line

1. Save time on recruitment

Recruitment is costly, both in time and money, and for many employers, especially SMEs, recruiting the strongest team can mean using significant resources. Work experience can be used as a recruitment tool, which in return, can reduce the time, money and efforts you spend.

By utilising work experience you will be training undergraduates and giving them business critical knowledge and experience that can benefit you in the long run. It is a great way to meet your future employees.

Whether you offer a taster day or an experience that lasts a week, a month or a year, it can be the first step to building a strong relationship between you and your future pipeline of talent.

Successful work experience placements not only ensure students develop relevant skills and knowledge, but it gives them the experience of working in your organisation, and with your team members. And by offering a quality and an interactive experience, which the students find exciting, insightful and engaging, can help spark their interest not only within your sector, but specifically within your company.

Making the time while students are in their placement to give them a full induction into the business and meet different members of staff can help to develop a positive experience on both sides.

Building relationships through quality work experience placements means you can begin to develop a pool of talent to cherry pick possible candidates from when graduate roles arise.

2. Drive your diversity and innovation

No matter how big or small your business may be, most organisations now recognise that diversity and inclusion make perfect business sense. Many companies are working hard to put practices in place to ensure everything is done to incorporate diversity and inclusion into their business and recruitment strategy.

The majority of students will have differing perspectives from your current workforce which can act as a new source of creativity, bringing with them fresh new ideas into your business.

Offering work experience placements to students from a range of genders, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities, will improve the variety of viewpoints you have around a table and help you avoid groupthink. Diversity sparks innovation, and innovation sparks business results.

3. Plug your skills gap

It is well known that the UK is facing a growing skills gap in the face of a rapidly changing economy.

Businesses across the country are calling for graduates to have high levels of, for example, digital and technical skills to contribute immediately to future proofing the economy. It is critical that future talent is developed in a cohesive way to reduce underemployment and to help close the country’s skills gap.

Employers can benefit immensely from graduates who can hit the ground running and contribute from day one of employment. For many businesses, a student’s education alone is no longer enough, and candidates who have work experience on their CV’s standout amongst competition.

Offering quality work experience opportunities for students can ensure that, alongside their education, students obtain the knowledge and skills needed to be work ready for the future economy.

For you it also means you can use work experience to develop students’ skills in a way that will benefit you and your industry.

Advertising work experience opportunities in an area where you know you need to strengthen expertise, means while a student is still in education, they can build up the skills you need; ready to start applying their skills practically, as soon as they graduate.

4. Meet the millennials

Millennials are the workforce, employers and consumers of the future. They are technologically proficient, fast learners, a source of new insight, and hold the key to competitive edge.

If you are looking to attract top millennial talent to your company, you must provide opportunities that provide them with a sense of fulfilment and enriching experiences.

Offering work experience to current undergraduates is a perfect way to tap into the pool of fresh thinking and tech savvy skills of the next generation.

It is a great way for employers to market and showcase their organisation whilst allowing millennials a look into a chosen career path. Enrolling work experience students helps brings new perspectives and ideas, which can also help energise existing staff. And a new eye from outside of the business can often be better placed to spot ways to renew existing systems or processes.

Millennials with vitally important tech skills also offer a great opportunity to implement a reverse-mentoring system and upskill members of the team who may need to give their digital expertise a boost.

5. Increase your brand awareness

Offering work experience opportunities to ‘soon to be’ graduates is a great way to expose students to your company’s brand.

Giving the next generation of workers a first look at what a career in your industry entails and a possible first step onto the career ladder can boost your company’s reputation.

This will only be done through creating an effective and organised placement that has genuinely been beneficial to a candidate. You can do this by setting them work tasks where they can contribute to your business and in turn feel valued.

Through this experience where they have gained knowledge and skills, which they wouldn’t have otherwise, you can boost your word of mouth advertising, which is such a powerful tool.

Candidates will share their experience with like-minded individuals. Word will soon get out which lead to more people wanting to carry out work experience or apply for a job at your business – easing your recruitment drive.

You will be able to, through work experience, choose from the best young talent out there and will create real advocates for your company’s mission and values. These advocates may become future employees and customers.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for Bytestart by David Docherty Chairman of Placer, an innovative platform set to overcome the shortfall in work experience opportunities for students through a network of universities and employers.

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