Tuesday 31 March 2020 2:53 pm

Let's work together to make work experience more rewarding

Imogen Beecroft is founder of 'Cancer. We're done.' and head of client services at Audley.

Any student who’s ever spent a week getting coffee, photocopying, or doing research that is immediately thrown into the recycling knows that our current work experience system doesn’t work. 

It’s elitist, nepotistic, and formal work experience programmes tend to only be offered in very “establishment” industries: law, banking, consulting. 

And yet it’s still a vital part of your CV. We sit through weeks making coffee and answering the phone because we know those 80 words are critical to give you something to talk about at an interview, in a world where experience is required to get an entry-level job.  

There are lots of reasons why this is a flawed system: it shouldn’t just be the people whose Uncle Barry knows someone at Linklaters who get those advantages in job interviews, and it shouldn’t just be traditional industries where students get experience of the world of work.   

Traditional industries no longer run the world; they’re not the only options for students leaving school or university and looking for an exciting career path. We live in the age of the startup, when two friends in a coffee shop are just as likely to be genuinely in search of caffeine as they are to be working on plans for what could be tomorrow’s unicorn.   

There are hundreds of startups and growth companies in the UK today, and, in the main, they’re doing things differently. Roles are different. Responsibilities are different. Hierarchies are different. But students don’t tend to get a chance to see this, and, more often than not, leave school or university in search of the nearest grad scheme to begin climbing the slippery corporate ladder, not actually sure that they want whatever it is that’s at the top.   

That’s why I started Let’s work, an initiative to help students who otherwise wouldn’t have such opportunities access paid, useful work experience at startups and growth companies.   

So far, 28 companies have signed up to give one student a week’s paid work experience through Let’s work. The companies span a wide range of industries: fintech, culture, healthcare and even alcohol-free beer.

They include Onfido, the world’s leading identity-verification company, which last year raised $50m for further international expansion; 10x, the fintech founded by Antony Jenkins, former chief executive of Barclays; and What3words, a ground-breaking geolocation service which has assigned each 3m square in the world a unique three-word address. 

Each company has committed to proving an interesting, realistic, and valuable experience of the workplace to the winning student.  

Students – or anyone over 18 looking for a career change – can apply by buying a £5 raffle ticket to win a week’s work experience at the company on the list that interests them most (the maximum anyone can buy is 10 tickets per company), and 100 per cent of the proceeds go to charity. 

Let’s work is part of a charitable campaign raising money for cancer research, called “Cancer. We’re done.” The campaign is raising money for immunotherapy research at the UCL Cancer Institute, as well as Shine, the only UK charity that exists exclusively to support adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have experienced a cancer diagnosis, and CLIC Sargent, which fights tirelessly to stop cancer destroying young lives.  

So, to all those students struggling to find decent, CV-worthy work experience – and all those parents of students in the same boat – please visit www.cancerweredone.com/lets-work and take your pick.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.