Work Experience: The Guide

Boris Johnson recently expressed his belief that businesses getting involved in offering work experience would be beneficial to all parties. He went on to describe the valuable skills that could be gained such as learning how to get on the career ladder, developing confidence and an insight in the world of work.

Here is our guide to offering work experience and the benefits that it entails.

What is work experience?


Work experience generally refers to a specified period during which an individual spends time as part of a business to learn within a work environment. Generally, employers will offer the opportunity for people to observe and learn, however others may provide the chance to get more hands on with tasks.




What is the difference between work experience and an internship?


Sometimes work experience can be referred to as an internship. However, whilst work experience is an opportunity for people from any background to observe and learn, most commonly an internship will require candidates to have a higher level of qualification. Individuals embarking on an internship are more likely to gain experience in a professional career and be allocated specific tasks and/or responsibilities.



What are the benefits?

Work experience is an opportunity for individuals to get an insight into the reality of working life as well as be supported in developing essential skills to secure good employment in the future. Placements within a business can help break the cycle of no experience leading to no job.


On the other hand, you have the opportunity to take on people able to offer fresh ideas to the business and allows you to access a wide range of new talent. As a result you will get the opportunity to explore taking on new employees as part of workforce planning and strategic business management.


How do you recruit for work experience?

Rather than relying on recommendations from friends and family, you should advertise the position as you would any other. This will allow you to access a wider range of talent that can make a difference to your business. It is also useful for the individual, as they will gain experience in job applications and interviews, if you choose to include them in the process.


How long should a placement be and what hours should I offer?

The length of placements can be determined between the employer and the individual. In order for placements to be beneficial to both parties you should look to offer experience over two to twelve weeks, depending on the level of experience that needs to be gained.


Both parties should also come together to discuss suitable hours of work. These may be dependent on the needs of the business and support that you can offer, as well as any academic commitments or classroom time that the individual may have.


Do I have the pay the individual?

Work experience has no legal status under the National Minimum Wage (NMW) entitlement. However if the placement that you are offering involves undertaking responsibilities and carrying out duties that are business critical then NMW should be paid.


As a minimum, it is suggested that the employer covers any reasonable travel expenses. Remember that if the individual is classed as a volunteer then they have no obligation to perform or work under a formal arrangement.


What tasks should individuals be allocated?

For work experience to be beneficial it is important the individual is given tasks that will assist with their professional skills and give them an insight into the world of business. It is important to support individuals in widening their talent base. Some examples of tasks include:


  • Allocating them a mini project to undertake
  • Indentifying shadowing placements within different areas of the business
  • Assigning business critical tasks under the supervision of a mentor


What happens once the placement is complete?

Regardless of how long the placement has been, you should make the time to hold a final interview during which you can discuss the placement successes and any future support you may be able to offer. It is also a good opportunity to gain feedback from the individual about the placement and the business. You may like to provide the individual with a reference or discuss acting as a referee for future employment.


Finally, depending on the success of the placement and need within the workforce, you may consider offering the individual a fixed term contract or permanent employment.