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A huge majority of business, school and college leaders want ministers to recognise the importance of pre-16 work experience, according to a new survey published today (Wednesday) by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
The survey of over 3,500 business bosses and education leaders found that 82% of business respondents, and 73% of respondents from schools, colleges and universities believe secondary schools should offer work experience for pupils aged under 16.
Work experience is not offered universally across the UK and in England, in particular, it has been deprioritised. However, the survey found that 79% of employers think work experience is the most important activity to equip young people with workplace skills, followed by paid part-time work (69%) and volunteering (55%).
While the majority of businesses offer some form of work experience, a third of businesses (36%) offer no work experience of any kind. Micro and small businesses, in particular, need greater support to offer work experience.
Further findings from the survey:
Businesses should prioritise delivery of work experience.

  • 50% of firms identified work experience as the top priority activity for businesses to offer young people, over business mentoring (15%), part-time paid work (14%) enterprise activities (9%), volunteering (6%), and other (6%).
  • 48% of educational establishments identified work experience as the top priority activity for businesses to offer young people, over enterprise activities (18%), mentoring (13%), volunteering (7%), part-time paid work (6%) and other (8%).

There’s no single ideal work experience model – businesses that offer work experience value a variety of models.

  • 66% of firms offer one to two week term-time work experience placements, 47% offer work placements during school holidays, 30% offer flexible work placements and 27% arrange visits to their businesses for groups of pupils. 

Two-thirds of businesses offer work experience of some form. Those that don’t say that they need more support and encouragement to offer work experience.

  • 36% of businesses offer no work experience of any kind.
  • Firms that don’t currently offer work experience would be encouraged to do so by having more information about what is required (36%), someone to facilitate the relationship with the school (33%) and clarity on the benefits to their business (19%).
  • Micro, small and medium sized businesses are less likely than larger firms to offer work experience. 59% of micro businesses (0-9 staff) offer no type of work experience at all, compared to 29% of small (10-49), 16% of medium (50-249) and 12% of large firms (250+). 

Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the BCC said: 
“Business and school leaders are clear: we won’t bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work unless young people spend time in workplaces while still at school. 
“It was careless of Government to end compulsory work experience in 2012, but it is not too late to correct the mistake – and work with companies and schools to ensure that every school pupil has the chance to feel the energy, dynamism, buzz and challenge of the workplace for themselves. 
“Work experience is crucial to bringing down our stubbornly high youth unemployment rate. It will help ensure more young people are prepared for work. It will help close the yawning skills gaps reported by frustrated businesses across the UK, who face huge difficulty filling vacancies at every level. 
“The Government must act to bring compulsory work experience for under 16s back in England. Devolved administrations must ensure that it is available to all in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We pledge to work with governments in all four nations to ensure that more and more businesses then engage with schools, offer work placements to young people, and help the next generation get the start that they deserve.”

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