Inspiring Minds: The Importance of Work Experience
No matter what the industry, many of us have been the new kid on the block; the work experience novice thrown to the wolves with so much expectation and yet so little insight into what may lie ahead. Perhaps you ended up where you didn’t want to be; a victim of the ‘luck of the draw’ at school or college. Maybe the experience made you realise that this wasn’t the right profession for you but at least now you could rule it out. If, however, you had an inkling of what you wanted to do, a suitable placement may have made all the difference; igniting that spark of interest and helping to shape your future career.
Of course, the onus isn’t just on the organiser to find a suitable position or on the student to make the most of the opportunity; the temporary employer must also carry a weight of responsibility. In a workplace, the announcement of an imminent placement can sometimes be considered a nuisance, as a cry of “Does anyone have anything for the work experience kid to do” rings out across the office. The request for a meeting to explain role/duties/projects can be another source of aggravation; often eliciting a groan and an exasperated howl of “I don’t have time for this!”
In many ways, however, having a young student in the office can be just as beneficial for the employer as it can be for those on placement. It can even act as a reminder to your employees of why they entered the profession in the first place; renewing that sense of enthusiasm that may be waning amid the pressures of heavy workloads and multiple deadlines. Having grown up surrounded by technology and social media, young people can also bring with them a new energy and fresh ideas. And not only are you contributing to society by preparing a young person for work and helping them to make more informed choices about their future, but you are also aiding the industry by potentially attracting new talent.
A little bit of effort and pre-planning can go a long way when it comes to welcoming a young person into the workplace. Create a well-thought-out schedule with a variety of tasks and activities, and the experience can be a positive one all-round; limiting periods of boredom and avoiding the stress of trying to drum up last-minute errands.
Case in point is Shakir, an A-level student at Davenant Foundation School who, having expressed an interest in engineering, was placed with us here at evolve HQ. Shakir was a massive hit in the evolve office; with Office Administrator Mikaela, who planned his schedule for the week, describing him as “enthusiastic, courteous and hard-working.”
During his time in the office, Shakir helped to prepare a tender submission with evolve Director Neil by assisting with presentational material. He also attended several meetings with our Project Engineers, including a visit to world-renowned Architects Zaha Hadid. Tasks included modelling exercises in both Revit and Tekla, while Shakir was also encouraged to learn more about an engineer’s career path from members of the team who talked him through the finer points of university and Chartership. Whilst he didn’t get the chance to attend a site visit on this occasion, such was his enthusiasm and self-motivation that he was invited back to spend more time with evolve in the future.
For young students such as Shakir, a successful placement can make a real lasting impression. Not only can they gain an insight into the world of work, but they can also begin to understand the links between the subjects they study at school and what they encounter in the workplace. Of course, they also get the chance to build contacts in their chosen field who may be able to provide references and possible job opportunities down the line.
Shakir’s mother, Pat, was keen to emphasise the positive impact that her son’s placement with evolve has had and how “it inspired him to think ‘big’.”
Pat said, “He came home fired up, focussed, motivated, excited and committed because he felt he had a direction and something positive to aim for. He was eager to show me what he had done each day; he talked about how lovely the team were and he talked about now having a clear idea about wanting to do Structural Engineering.
“The holiday study plans were all written, colour-coded and up on the wall by the following week………and he is sticking to it!
“As a parent, I am so grateful to you all for giving your time, words of wisdom, guidance and advice to a young man you don’t even know. You have made such an impact by inspiring him in his future career.”
Speaking about the impression that Shakir himself made on the team, Office Administrator Mikaela adds, “Not every student may come away with the same drive and motivation, but it only takes one to potentially create a fantastic future engineer.”
Of course, as an employer, you could also be giving your work experience student the opportunity to realise that your field of expertise is not for them and that too is a worthwhile result; saving them from pursuing a career they won’t enjoy and saving a future employer from recruiting someone who is not right for the industry.
And if the opposite is true, then you may well have found yourself a potential future recruit and one who you know will be a good fit for your company. At the very least, you will have helped put a young person on the path to what will hopefully be a very successful and rewarding career.
Having had the pleasure of meeting and working with Shakir, the evolve team has no doubt that he will make a wonderful engineer one day and will be a real asset to the industry.
And we will be honoured to have played a small part in that.