"Work experience often provides the opportunity for a positive new start for many young people. Not just in their career but in their confidence, self-esteem and sense of purpose. I personally totally understand the importance of work experience for changing a young person’s life, based on my own life, my background in education and my roles with Young Gloucestershire.

"My background is working class and I’m 37, work experience opportunities when I was young, weren’t the best. This was particularly the case for a working class boy who wanted to be an actor. A combination of financial and cultural factors made it very difficult to secure work experience in the performing arts industry. Firstly, I grew up in the countryside, which has very few opportunities in this industry. There was also a huge pressure to conform to certain working and career principles, especially as a young man. Anything focused on the arts was seen as a lesser career and there was a huge amount of mocking, bullying and negative reactions. Assumptions were made about my personality, sexuality, beliefs and “masculinity” (I hate that word, but it feels appropriate) based only on my career aspirations. So being proactive about finding work experience in performing arts was something I wasn’t brave enough or supported enough to do and is a big regret for me.

"My career has continued to enhance my belief in the importance of work experience. For many years I taught performing arts in further education with 16-19 year olds. Every day I saw a group of young people trying to get work experience that would support their career aspirations. The challenges of living in the countryside stopped a lot of young people getting work experience. Also the financial divide between young people had a huge impact. Young people from wealthier backgrounds were able to travel for work experience or many were lucky enough to get opportunities through personal connections. I always felt pleased for those young people having opportunities, but it felt unfair on those who didn’t. Especially when they were trying to support applications to university or drama school with meaningful and relevant work experience. These factors also contributed to creating a perception in some young people that they weren’t good enough professionally or personally to secure work experience, which of course was absolute rubbish.

"Equality of opportunity in work experience is still a massive issue for young people, when it really shouldn’t be. There are so many factors that can stop young people securing work experience, so if you are a young person who is struggling to get through the door, it is highly likely that this is due to a load of things that have nothing to do with you, so please keep trying.

"I left a career in education in 2021 to work with Young Gloucestershire. I wanted to focus more on working with young people to develop their wellbeing. I have been lucky enough to do three roles at Young Gloucestershire, the second of which was Team Leader for the Prince’s Trust Team, a 12 week programme for 16-25 year old young people who are not in employment, education or training. Two of those 12 weeks are work experience for the young people and those weeks are transformative for them. These are young people who have often faced challenges in their lives and many have struggled to find or be given limited opportunities in their lives. But when given the opportunity as part of this programme they shined and excelled. During my first Team; one lad secured a full time job from his work experience and two secured apprenticeship offers. While it’s easy to focus on those that go on to get a paid job, the other achievements have no less value; all the young people showed improved confidence and self-esteem. The look on those young people’s faces when they receive their work experience reference, with all sections marked as excellent, is a wonderful thing that stays with them and helps them to believe that they can excel again in work experience, employment or professional training.

"As a Prince’s Trust Team Leader, one of the most rewarding moments for me was seeing one young person smiling, laughing and totally distracted from their challenges with mental health, all because they were having a great time on a work placement. After that experience, the young person was so motivated to find a job, as they knew how much it could help them personally as well as professionally. Having been holding back, daunted that their mental health would go against them in an interview, it was an incredible opportunity to show that young person what they are capable of. And what a pleasure for me, to be given a role that allows me to facilitate and witness that.

"At YG we are always looking for new work experience opportunities for the young people on our programmes. We offer support to any employers who open their doors to our young people. We provide supervision, risk assessments and support throughout the two week placement.  To any employers reading this blog, please consider providing an opportunity for work experience; you will be giving them something of exceptional value. Although the young people we work with may not be your usual recruitment pool, they are an incredible bunch each with unique skills and experiences that may well be the perfect fit for your workplace.

"Work experience isn’t just about building a CV and helping young people to get a job, it is about transforming a young person’s personal life, self-perception and confidence and that benefits everyone in our society."

If you think you could offer a work placement please getinvolved@youngglos.org.uk