16/10/2014

By Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People

As we finally emerge from recession and start to experience more positive market conditions, many companies are starting to hire again, often for the first time in years after a period of stagnant growth. While this is fantastic news for the UK economy, it also leaves companies with a new problem: sourcing the right talent to help them grow. A recent report from REC and KPMG found that job vacancies rose at their fastest rate for 16 years in August, and skills shortages are on the increase – particularly for permanent roles.

For any company facing a skills gap, it may seem counter-intuitive to look to those without directly relevant experience to fill the void. But with large numbers of recent graduates hungry for their first role, providing young people with a step in to your business can pay dividends. The development and recruitment of fresh young minds is the perfect way to build a dynamic , loyal and productive workforce. By building a work experience or paid internship programme into your recruitment strategy, it’s possible to develop a pipeline of talent which will deliver real value for your business further down the line.

Offering work placements can be hugely beneficial for companies who want to take a fully advised approach to hiring. Internships often act as an informal trial period which allows both the business and candidate to get a feel for whether they are a good match. Any bigger decision to commit to a full time placement will be an informed one for both parties as they have already had the chance to explore and demonstrate their suitability to each other.

Work experience can often lead to a direct hire, but even if a relevant position isn’t available at the time it opens up a channel of communication for you to keep conversations going with talented young people. The added benefit of becoming known for actively investing in young people by offering work experience is that your business will feel the effect of the ‘talent pipeline’ – bright young minds will be attracted to working in a place with their peers.

Incorporating a work experience programme into your HR strategy is also hugely beneficial on a broader scale to business in general. Young people often find themselves in a catch 22 situation where they need experience to get a job but cannot gain experience without a job, leaving them stuck in stalemate when it comes to employability. Young people need opportunity as much as businesses need new talent. If you want to start seeing a wealth of employable young minds walking through your door, it’s easy to become part of the solution by offering opportunities within your own business to build their skills and boost employability.

Providing work experience opportunities gives businesses access to creative, inventive and ambitious young minds, often with skills that your current workforce may not possess – whether it be an aspect of new technology, or being able to start a company blog that communicates direct with your customers. Fresh perspectives bring about the kind of innovation that can open up your company to new and emerging customer groups and markets. This experience is therefore incredibly valuable particularly where markets are rapidly changing or rely on a youthful customer base.

Offering work experience is a small piece of the greater idea of growing your own talent as a business, and managing staff in the right way in order to create a happy and productive workforce. Investing in young people helps improve staff retention and can often strengthen company culture overall, as well as providing returns in commitment and loyalty. By giving opportunities to career starters, you can nurture and unlock talent which will ultimately benefit your business’ bottom line.