Work experience helps

Published: 12 Dec 2013 By Jean Roberts-Jones

Having a young student from a local college on work experience is often put off as ‘too difficult’. All too often, young people are just given photocopying or shredding to do for a week. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer youngsters are choosing to make a career in the voluntary sector?

In order to make it a good experience for the both of you, there are several things to bear in mind:

1.    As Chief Executive, don’t be afraid to take personal responsibility for the young person on work experience.  Often junior staff in a charity are given the task of ‘finding jobs’ and they do not necessarily have the scope of the work to offer, nor the experience of how to get satisfaction from a task well done, Don’t make it a staff chore.

2.    Interview the young person before they start. A formal interview can be daunting, but a chat over a cup of tea helps you assess the level of understanding they need; especially as their IT skills maybe easily transferrable to your work if you think it through. Take time to appreciate what they want from you.

3.    Think ahead – what jobs have you put off or could put off until they start? In my own instance,  I know we have wanted to send information out to local Residential Homes but finding the addresses from the Guide would take time to put into mail merge, I now had time.

4.    Don’t be afraid to allow them to shadow you. Obviously, some meetings would be too sensitive, but many are not. Go through with them what information you took away from the meeting; did they pick up the same key actions?

5.    Offer a variety of small tasks for them to undertake. That way, they have a sense of achievement, you keep an eye on whether they are doing what you want them to do, the way you would like it done.

6.    Take time to explain what is going on. I recently took the person on work experience with me to a CCG stake holder meeting. I really had to think what CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) stood for and what their role is (ok – we all want to know that!) However, I found the exercise helpful to check it was still appropriate to go to the meetings and either take information I wished to pass on or receive information my charity or my clients could benefit from.

7.    Having someone in on work experience can really free up your time for you to get on with your job if you plan and think ahead.
Lastly, it can be enjoyable and satisfying to think you have helped a young person appreciate life in a charity. If they leave your charity having had a good experience they may tell their family and friends, your charity gets great publicity but if it’s a poor experience …………

I was delighted to be asked by my latest work experience recruit if I minded if she passed my details onto her friend at college. I am happy to have a regular supply – but one at a time please!

Jean Roberts-Jones is Chief Executive at One Community.

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