The World of Work (Experience): How it is evolving and how to increase opportunities

Work experience opportunities for secondary school and college or sixth form students are traditionally taking form of shadowing someone, visiting a workplace or completing a work placement, in person or online. New virtual approaches to engage with students are on the rise, and these can tackle some of the traditional barriers to gaining work experience. These experiences for young people are proven to have both short term and long term benefits. In the short term it can boost self-confidence, motivation, and career awareness. In the long term it positively impacts employability and salary potential.


Work experience is clearly significant for young people’s career development, however a recent YouGov survey of 2,098 18-30-year-olds revealed that 66% of students do not recall doing any experience related to work between 16-18 years of age. Furthermore, privately educated students are twice as likely to complete multiple work experiences, which is proven to benefit career options and salary later in life. Inequalities impacting career aspirations emerge early in life and addressing a lack of opportunities is an important step in promoting diversity in the future job market. With current university students graduating into a competitive job market, more than 50% of young people believe that a lack of work experience is the biggest barrier to finding work. Those from more affluent backgrounds see themselves in higher status jobs, compared to those from a less affluent background. Work experience opportunities for disadvantaged secondary school students can help introduce them to the world of work and to learn about their career options. For these reasons work experience is a significant part of social value and one that businesses can directly support through partnering with organisations which target these issues.


How is the world of work experience changing with the influence of technology?

Technology is influencing changes in the work experience landscape. Many schools and businesses are taking advantage of the digital world to promote virtual work placements. Virtual work experience provide wider access: it can remove geographical or physical barriers and offer flexibility. It also supports students in developing digital skills and experience in online work which is increasingly sought after. It is important that businesses continue develop their use of digital tools to widen opportunities for work experience. At whatimpact, we are committed to leveraging the power of technology – you can unlock valuable partnerships by connecting with organisations on our platform who use technology and their expertise to improve career options for underprivileged students. Their projects support companies in their social value work and also diversify talent and skills within different job sectors.


What are some organisations making a difference?

The issues amongst access to work experience cannot be solved only by increasing the quantity of opportunities, quality is an important factor as well. Over a quarter of young people rated their experience as either low or very low quality. Similarly, most students report receiving some form of career advice, but only a fifth rated it as high quality. Schools and students benefit from support which can help them find high quality career advice and work experience. Also, programmes should be designed to cater learning and physical disabilities. We have some excellent organisations on the whatimpact platform whose projects bring the world of work to disadvantaged students in innovative ways. Here are a couple of examples: 


Brightside’s online mentoring programme harnesses technology and social value to bring career support to less advantaged students. Brightside works with companies to deliver high quality mentoring which supports the growth of behavioural skills and provides information they need to make important decisions about futures. Mentors increase mentees’ social capital by providing a space to explore interests and options.

Working Options 

Working Options aims to upskill and empower young people through sessions in schools and businesses, and engaging digital content. They improve employment opportunities and give young people an understanding of their next steps and the opportunities available. 

Class of Your Own 

Class of Your Own’s three year programme supporting specialist teacher training and student opportunities which can lead to students achieving recognised Design Engineer Construct! (DEC) qualifications in build environment sector. They also organise site visits and career days for schools. 


Voyage’s work experience programme matches disadvantaged young people to paid opportunities in a range of sectors to help them develop their skills, network and aspirations. The outcomes include improved employability for young people with low aspirations and meaningful work for young people who might otherwise have little to do during the summer holidays.

Startup Sherpas

Startup Sherpas is an work experience platform and an concept, that offers exciting projects for large number of students through paid, digital, creative workplace experience programme. They provide innovation work for companies like Aviva, HMRC and Accenture by harnessing the skills of young people from diverse backgrounds. whatimpact CEO Tiia interviewed Hugo, the founder of Startup Sherpas about their innovative concept and why the approach to work experience and the work of work in general has to change for better future for young people. Watch and Listen to the episode here on YouTube!


Looking to the future

With rapid technological developments, the landscape of work experience is transforming. Businesses, educational institutions and VCSEs are at the forefront of navigating the new opportunities. Organisations can harness new technologies to adapt and contribute to the positive evolution of work experience. Embracing innovative tools and creating productive partnerships opens avenues for increasing accessible and high-quality opportunities.


For more content on social value planning, delivery and reporting, access our social value resource centre here.






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