The comments follow government proposals to remove the statutory duty for schools to provide every young person at Key Stage 4 (14-16 year olds) with work-related learning.
John McGlinchey, director at the computing technology industry association CompTIA, said: “Work experience placements at 16 are generally a good idea and removing them is far from ideal. CompTIA’s experience working with the IT profession and the people coming into it suggests most people wish their school had done more to help them understand career options, not less. In IT especially, few people feel their school life really gave them any understanding of what an IT career is about,” he said.
“Rather than scrapping work experience altogether, I’d like to see a programme in which students are given greater opportunity to try out specific careers where there are real job opportunities, such as IT,” said McGlinchey.
Jane Bennet, campaigns manager at the Forum of Private Business, said cancelling work experience will further reduce the number of work-ready youngsters entering the job market.
Peter Scargill, IT head at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), agreed that a compulsory work experience system helps students appreciate some of the IT skills necessary for business. “There is a big difference between the skills students learn at school and what businesses need. [FSB] members suggest many young people are not ready for the world of work,” he said.
But David Roberts, executive director of industry body The Corporate IT Forum, said the impact of removing work experience for students at GCSE level would be minimal. “Work experience is important, but it is debatable whether experience as shallow as that delivered by the current mandatory system is the best way of approaching it. We’d much rather see the current system replaced by a good mentoring scheme and better career advice,” he said.
The government’s consultation period for the proposals has now closed.
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