Why do we need work experience?

4 August 2021

A student learning first-hand knowledge during a work experience placement.

Work experience is a popular method of learning new skills, trying out certain roles and gaining effective hands-on experience. It’s also a good opportunity for people of all ages, ranging from students that need to add examples of work to their CV to people that want to change their career path and anyone that wants to get back into work after time away. But if you’ve not completed a period of work experience before or you simply don’t understand why people undergo work experience placements, you may be wondering why it’s so important.

In this blog, we explain what exactly work experience is before looking into why it matters in the minds of potential employers and how it’s an important factor in finding employment.

What is work experience?

Applicable in all industries, work experience is a temporary period of time spent in a workplace. It’s primarily used to learn about the company, specific job role or industry as a whole, and in doing so, the individual can gain first-hand experience of the role and sector, gauge whether or not it’s suitable for them and prove to potential employers that they have had involvement in a specific field.

Traditionally, work experience is undertaken in person at a physical workplace. However, many businesses are developing the option of virtual work experience placements which allow for similar experience but remotely using the internet and other online platforms. Despite being commonly associated with young people, work experience is an option to anyone that wishes to get back into work after time away or change their career path. Although often unpaid, employers do have the option of offering a salary to people they bring in on work experience.

Does work experience matter?

Before applying for work experience, you may be interested to know whether or not it actually matters in the eyes of potential employers. According to a survey conducted by UCAS, as much as two thirds of employers prioritise job applicants that possess relevant work experience as it is an indication that they are prepared for the role.

The Institute of Student Employers also reports that a work experience placement could lead to full-time employment with the same company, as 94 per cent of employers offered temporary employees permanent roles once a placement had ended. As such, not only could a work experience placement be valuable in the eyes of future employers, but it could also potentially lead to direct employment at the same company.

Why is work experience important?

Whether you’ve recently finished college or university, took a break from work but want to return or you have decided to change the career path you’re on, work experience is an effective starting point. It allows you to dip your toe into certain roles, companies and industries to see if it’s right for you, and if it is, you can learn the necessary skills, grow a list of relevant contacts and increase your confidence.

For anyone working towards a qualification such as a university degree or apprenticeship, a work experience placement can increase your chances of employability after passing. Likewise, if you’re lacking in previous roles to add to your CV, a work experience placement can fill gaps on your CV, and it often speaks volumes of both your professional credentials and personal traits.

For instance, undertaking a work experience placement indicates to a potential employer that you have the drive to learn new skills, the intention to work within the specific industry and role and the initiative to gain first-hand experience, even potentially without pay. As such, work experience could make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers and boost your overall employability.

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