Between the ages of 16-19, students in England must take part in the 16-19 study programme with one of its main three elements involving work experience. There are three patterns that work experience at this age may follow, as described by the Department for Education:

  • experiential work experience - one or two short periods of work experience or other work-related learning to test out vocational ideas connected to future study or employment options, such as study visits, projects and engagement with local enterprise. 
  • vocational work experience - focused on a particular vocational area to contribute directly to a study programme.
  • extended work experience - which focuses on developing employability skills, with maths and English covering the majority of the study programme time and will apply to students on a traineeship, who need additional support to prepare them for apprenticeships or a supported internship.

Work experience is vital to a young person’s future, with 29% of employers saying that experience is critical when recruiting young people and a further 45% saying that it is significant. 

Recent research has also shown that young people often gain access to new and trustworthy information and useful contacts through business engagement. A high number of relatively brief business engagements play a significant role in helping young people to explore, clarify and confirm career choices. 

However, only 27% of employers offer work experience, and when asked why a company didn’t offer work experience, 37% of them stated that it was because they had “no suitable roles”.

If you’re one of the 73% that doesn’t offer traditional work experience - it may not be suitable for your organisation - you could look at offering students “work inspiration” to complement their work experience and, in turn, give them a more comprehensive understanding of the world of work and enhance their employability skills. 

If you’re stuck for ideas, you might like to think about:


you can work with your local schools and colleges to make sure that their students have relevant, up-to-date and good quality information to help them navigate through their education and career, making them aware of the different careers that are available and the opportunities that are available to them. You can also work with schools to influence their curriculum and offer your company as case study material.


offering students the chance to practice their interview techniques doesn’t demand much time or resource from you but can mean the difference between young people sailing or struggling through their first interviews.


can help young people understand the intricacies of a sector, as well as helping to dispel long-standing myths about specific jobs - for example, the “construction is just about dirty work” or “nursing is only for girls”. Sending out employees also offers them a chance to hone their presentation and communication skills.


offer young people the chance to understand how the stuff they are learning in school can be put into practice in the wider world. They can bring industries and sectors to life, see what goes on and learn about the range of sectors within an industry.


let students have fun whilst giving them a flavour of the world of work. These kinds of activities also benefit you, as young people can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to business challenges. You might like to set business briefs for students to undertake which will encourage them to work together, communicate, work to deadlines, and solve problems.


providing one-to-one encouragement and support to learners can help young people build their confidence and employability skills.  At the same time, it can help you encourage the creation of a talent pipeline into your business as well as developing and motivating your existing staff. 


good quality information, setting up business challenges, competitions and project work, and mentoring, can all be done online.


shows young people what your employees might do on a day-to-day basis.


for your industry or at your local school can raise awareness about your sector. You can talk to young people about roles in depth and let them know what it is really like to work in an industry. 

Offering “work inspiration” can also help your company - students will know your name when they come to look for work, and you will have made sure that students have the right skills for your sector, increasing the talent pool to employ from.

See also: Not just making tea...Reinventing work experience