At the workshop "Raising Aspirations through Work Inspiration" held on 15th November, Practitioners from Business in the Community (BITC) member companies came together to share information about their challenges and approaches to turning work experience into "Work Inspiration".
Channel 4 Television and Allen & Overy LLP presented the programmes which achieved recognition in Business in the Community's pilot Work Inspiration award category in 2009 to representatives from 14 member companies: Argent, BAE Systems, BBC, Beachcroft LLP, BSkyB, Cambridge University Press, Centrica, Chiswick Park Estate Management, Department of Health, Environment Agency, Marks & Spencer, Rothschild, SAS Software and Visa Europe.
Jo Taylor, Head of Learning & 4talent for Channel 4 outlined a talent management strategy which helps educate managers to look at talent in a different way and delivers great opportunities for 11 - 25 year olds in a range of programmes across the UK from one to two weeks unpaid work experience to 3-12 month internships and apprenticeships. "We think hard about what talent means to C4" Jo Taylor explained, "and we're democratic about developing talent. Our internship programme for example allows 2nd ‘careerers' to experience the roles available in the media through our business, by gaining hands on training and development; 30% of the 14 interns this year have remained with us so the business benefit is clear. As a policy, C4 pays any work experience over 2 weeks in the interests of social mobility. Part of the benefit is educating managers to look at talent in a different way".
For Channel 4, an on-line presence is critical and a multi platform strategy is the communication their target audience expects. "A simple message about what talent stands for means we can sell the idea to others - to partners and young people".
Jo outlined a programme of work which is resourced by a team of three and takes them out nationally into community events communicating the Channel's hunger for talent and the routes offered.
Allen & Overy, as a professional firm with over 2,500 people in their large City based office, focused on what they could do to make work experience more beneficial to young people - part of a long tradition of community investment in their local area. "The Work Inspiration campaign is making us look differently at work experience" explained Emma Shaw, Pro Bono & Community Affairs Officer for the firm. "We realised we needed to improve the ownership internally - bringing together the interests of Graduate Recruitment, Diversity, Community Investment and the legal and support functions. So we followed the campaign advice to hold an internal Big Conversation."
Allen & Overy outlined a significant investment in creating work experience programmes that are beneficial for the young people taking part in them, and for the firm. Their Smart Start Experience, for Year 12 students, is lead from the top, and brings together more than 200 volunteers who help make the programme a success. Smart Start gives students the chance to develop confidence and other key soft skills, whilst also finding out more about the types of jobs in the City, and how to apply for them. Smart Start also benefits the firm for example, they invite clients to get involved with the programme; and it plays an important role in encouraging staff to get involved not just in Smart Start but in other volunteering activities.
During table discussions, delegates addressed first the question about what makes the difference internally, and secondly what makes the difference in terms of getting the right young people in to the opportunities available.
It was clear that there were steps companies could take if they did not have any programme as well as some good practices for companies with developed approaches and programmes.
Building momentum - what makes the difference internally
Early steps recommendations:
- Develop an outline for how to deliver an effective placement (best led by HR). Provide an example of what a good work experience will include and provide a feedback form. Provide a job description for a work experience host and outline the skills developed by this experience.
- Prepare the materials to be used by young people and make these available to those involved in managing the work experience placement of who you're trying to recruit for this role. It breeds more confidence.
- Beware overstretching new recruits by making them responsible for work experience supervision.
- Find leadership internally.
- Use Ambassadors/Champions - they can communicate this volunteering opportunity, the issues it addresses about which they have a passionate interest be that diversity, social mobility, they can deliver and reinforce message if volunteering is integrated into appraisals.
Later steps recommendations:
- Work on a simple external communication of the opportunities available across the business - a careers portal. Bundle together all they ways young people can engage with you to experience work. This will allow you to promote the message internally as well as externally.
Building momentum in widening access and attracting those in greatest needs
Early steps recommendations:
- A road show of all the working opportunities and the full range of work your business conducts makes you visible to pupils as an employer and supports their self selection in to work experience
- Look for partners/brokers who target those in greatest need using indicators like high percentage of students qualify for free school meals, don't have English as a first language ( e.g. The Brokerage City Link) and "first in the family to university" (Sutton Trust)
- Work with other companies in your local area
- Get to know your community through your employees
- Make your offer visible on your website
- Make parents aware of your work experience opportunities
Speaking on behalf of Business in the Community, Sarah Gibb, Director of Skills & Workplace Learning (BITC), outlined the milestones in campaign success:
- 485 companies signed up and using the insights and resources
- 98,581 placements benefitting from this approach
Sarah Gibb also urged any companies not already signed up to do so and to mobilise their leaders using their Business in the Community relationship.