By Lisa Ward, Belbin
“Each of us has a spark of life inside us, and our highest endeavour ought to be to set off that spark in one another.”
– Kenny Ausubel
I clearly remember my work experience 20 odd years ago – of course it was very different then and we were allocated our places of work based on job cards pinned on a board in the gymnasium - whoever got there first, managed to get the best placements. From the very few that were left, I opted for two weeks in a beauty salon, not a career I intended to work in, but as a 15 year old girl, the thought of free treatments appealed and (with the exception of disposing of waxing strip remnants), it was quite good fun.
These days it is the parents and students responsibility to organise their own work-experience. Therefore, from late last year, my son and I contacted lots of local organisations to see if they could help. Surprisingly, this proved to be much harder than we expected as many organisations do not offer it, do not have the correct insurance in place, or simply did not reply. Finally, my son secured one week at a local leisure centre and one of only four places with Cambridgeshire Police Force - which he was particularly pleased about as this is currently the career path he feels he would like to follow. (I encouraged him to send his Belbin GetSet report as part of his application and like to think this may have helped!)
On his first day he was up and ready to go, chatting about the variety of different jobs he may be asked to do at the leisure centre. At 5pm, I picked him up, looking forward to hearing about his day – unfortunately his face said it all, “That was the worst day ever mum!”
Oh no! How could weeks of planning suitable and inspirational work experience result in this?
He went on to tell me that nothing had been organised for him and the three other students to do, bar cleaning the cafe kitchen (which he didn’t have a problem with as he would rather be doing something rather than nothing) and then he mooched about for the rest of the day twiddling his thumbs (even though he has asked on numerous occasions if he could help with anything).
Hopefully tomorrow will be better I said… but sadly, it wasn’t, so I contacted his head of year and to his credit, he went straight in and suggested that the students may need more to do. They were promptly given a 45-minute exercise class and then it went back to how it was for the rest of the week. Sigh.
The students were told on many occasions by staff that they weren’t going to offer work experience next year as it was “too much effort".
Wow. Four very unimpressed, uninspired 15 years olds who have probably been put off working within the leisure industry for life. Not the results we wanted at all.
Thankfully this week so far has been a completely different story (thank you Parkside Police station!) Everyday has been filled to the brim with activities, conversations, trips to court and Cambridgeshire Police HQ – what a difference and my son is now even more certain this is the career path he wants to strongly consider.
I appreciate that keeping young people (who may or may not be interested in what you do) interested and engaged for a whole week might be a challenge, but we have a responsibility to these students to inspire and give them a glimpse of future possibilities. Do we want to give them food for thought, get them to think outside the box and leave their placement thinking that it was a really great week? Yes! Surely all it takes is a little organisation and planning, right?
Do you offer work experience to under 16’s? How do you ensure they are inspired and engaged? What advice would you offer to other organisations? I would love to hear your thoughts to contribute to our Belbin GetSet resources page.
P.s: If your teenager is unsure of where their strengths lie, why not try our Belbin GetSet questionnaire and report to help them with their next steps www.belbingetset.com