Experience is the teacher of all things

I was honored to be asked to be involved in the mock interviews for Kilmarnock Academy and Stewarton Academy recently. The format was pretty straight forward, pupils arrived at Utopia and were given a 15 minute interview in order to give them a taste of what their first real interview for a job, apprenticeship or even University place might be. For me, it’s a great opportunity to give feedback and even try out a couple of curveball questions that I might add to Utopia’s genuine interview process.

A student on a recent placement at Utopia putting the finishing touches to his first full PC build.

This year’s candidates were all brilliant… well except one who didn’t turn up, but hopefully the school will pick that up and if it was nerves, my door is always open in the future. But this blog isn’t about mock interviews, it’s about a conversation that came from one of the interviews I gave.

 

As with any interview, I had the CVs of the candidates to read before the big day, and I noticed that one of the candidates had mentioned that for his work experience he had spent time at an accountants, great I thought, my wife is a Chartered Accountant, and love them or not, they make the world turn. I was interested to hear his take on the experience, as well as learning more about the filing experience he wrote about  which seemed to have taken all of his 5 days work experience to complete.

 

When his time came for the interview, we worked through the questions until it came time to discuss his experience at the accountancy firm. It turned out that during his work experience, he literally did just sit in front of a PC and sort excel spreadsheets into one of two folders, one folder for sheets that did add up and one folder for sheets that didn’t. When I asked if he still wanted to be an accountant, well I think you know his reply, “no chance, it’s the most boring job in the world!”. Well avoiding the obvious stereotypes, I was gutted to hear a young man taking this viewpoint due to the poor experience an employer had given him. They had not shown him the range of work that goes on at a typical accountants, how they can be key to helping clients grow, how they can be trusted advisors when times are tough, and how being an accountant means you have the opportunity to work in any industry on the planet and in a world of increasing change this is a massive plus for a career in my book!

 

Some background information is probably needed at this point, the Scottish Government has a Developing Young Workforce (DYW) program that aims to give every young person a chance to experience the world of work before leaving school, but my worry is that this could well be a case of quantity over quality.

 

Our local Ayrshire DYW team are fantastic and they’re always up for giving and receiving honest feedback. When I asked if they think some employers use the work experience program as a ‘tick box exercise’ they agreed it does still happen in some cases. Due to the scale of these programs nationwide, it is a mammoth task to monitor everything but they’re working hard to educate employers to limit such cases.

 

The Ayrshire DYW team have came up with a hugely beneficial document to show employers how to get the most of of the Work Experience Program, as well as how to meet the expectations of the students. I’ve dropped a link to this at the bottom of this blog, be sure to check it out.

 

When Utopia has students in there is no doubt it is a more challenging week, time is taken by each of the team members involved, myself included, to spend time with the students, showing them the various aspects of the business, and often supporting them through some additional training via online classes like the ones on FutureLearn. We would love to give more places, but for the meantime we will continue to only deliver on around 50% of the enquiries we get, for me, quality is always going to win over quantity. Yes we could double or triple the quantity of students we see if we sat them in front of a PC all week and asked them to perform some mindless task, but what would this achieve?

 

If you are an employer and take part in a Work Experience Program, or perhaps work somewhere that does, I would urge you to carefully consider what value you are delivering over the course of the week. You have been given a unique opportunity to help shape the career of a young person’s life, it really does deserve your best effort.

Ayrshire Ask – Ayrshire Developing Young Workforce Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *