UK sees finance work experience places decrease

UK sees finance work experience places decrease

The accounting and professional services industry has seen a 3.9% decrease in work experience opportunities among the top 100 companies in 2018 compared with 2017

Work experience places for young people across the finance industry have fallen this year compared with 2017, despite an overall increase in opportunities.

The number of work experience places in accounting and professional services has dropped by 3.9%.

The drop has caused concern for young people’s futures as job markets become more competitive and work experience is increasingly seen as a necessity rather than desirable prior to employment.

The Knowledge Academy analysed findings from ‘High Fliers’ to see what has happened to the number of paid work experience opportunities among the 100 most established and successful employers in the UK.

Work experience in accounting and professional services has fallen from 1,866 in 2017 to 1,793 in 2018.

The worst decrease in the finance sector was for consulting, which saw a 45.2% reduction in places from 210 to 155.

Work experience opportunities in the banking and finance industry has dropped by 8.9% in a year and in investment banking the fall was 7.2%

Decreases in the number of finance work experience places available is a contrast to the overall trend of work experience. Between 2017 and 2018, 401 more places were offered overall.

The public sector had the highest increase in work experience opportunities, of 59.3% followed by engineering and industrial, at an increase of 21.4%.

Why is the number of finance work experience places falling?

There is no one single reason why work experience places in finance are decreasing while other sectors are seeing them rise.

One explanation could be a fall in demand as a result of the scrapping of compulsory work experience during school in 2012.

The research from ‘High Fliers’ did reveal that 13% more of the top 100 employers would like to see more interest in the work experience they offer.

Another challenge is quality of applications. For 36% of employers, the students they take on are not of a high enough standard for them.

Moreover, 4% said they would like to reduce the number of applications they receive for placements as they receive too many to manage.

Joseph Scott, spokesperson from The Knowledge Academy said: “In the current job climate, academic achievements or reputation of attended educational institutions alone cannot propel a graduate’s prospects.

“Whilst students are in the early years of university, they are recommended to get as much relevant work experience as possible.”

Why is this problematic?

The issue with reducing work experience opportunities for young people is the impact this then has on their future careers and the overall skillsets of future workforces.

According to research from Arch Apprentices, enthusiasm is the main trait employers look for when hiring young people. Even though 74% agree this is the most important thing, 43% said it was difficult to find this trait in young people.

Arch took two samples, one of 502 business decision makers and one of 1002 parents of 14-18-year-olds, to conduct their research into the impact of fewer work experience opportunities.

They found that the other problematic area is a lack experience of working life in general.

For 38.8% of business decision makers, the majority of applicants they take on have no or very limited experience of the work place. Also 38.4% of candidates do not have a clear understanding of the role they are applying for.

A lot of respondents, 30.5%, believe candidates do not understand what is expected of them throughout the application process, and 27.3% agree that the majority of applications have irrelevant qualifications.

How can we tackle the issue?

Arch’s research reveals that parents believe schools could do much more to prepare young people for their future professional lives.

For example, schools could ensure they have specially trained careers advisers, provide advice on alternatives to university, including high level apprenticeships, educate parents about the different types of jobs available, and make work experience compulsory.

Robert Halfon MP put the decreasing emphasis on work experience down to a general over-focusing on university at the expense of other possibilities.

Halfon said: “If we ask ourselves why we have a skills deficit, why we have problems with people doing enterprise and becoming entrepreneurs, it is because schools predominantly are fixated on university, university, university, and we need to change that.”

Ultimately young people need a better education on the world of work and what their future could look like. This is about schools, parents, universities, employers, and training centres teaming up to offer young people as many opportunities for experience as they can and to teach them about preparing for their future.

Why is work experience important?

The majority, 93%, of business decision-makers in the Arch survey said work experience should be compulsory, and nearly half of parents agreed.

One benefit of work experience is that it helps prepare young people for the world of business.

Nearly two thirds, 64%, agreed that work experience boosts the skills young people can take with them into the work place, and 57% said it instils a strong work ethic in individuals.

Work experience also gives young people the chance to stop and think about their future. By spending time in a working environment, doing the expected tasks and interacting with the people they would work with every day, an individual can make a far more informed decision about whether that is the career choice they want to pursue.


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