Partnerships

Society has created a chicken and egg scenario for many young people: they can’t get a job without experience and they can’t get experience without a job.

The government in the UK tried to sort this out in the 1960’s with apprenticeships and 20 years later, they were promoting YTS schemes as the next best thing. History has shown that this scheme equated to all work and no pay for the young person. It also encouraged a culture whereby employers got their dogsbody work funded by the government with no comeback to keep the youngster on when the money stopped coming. In the current climate, internships are the name of the game but are they practical or even affordable for most young people, from those leaving school or college/university to those seeking a career change?

There are serious concerns about the effectiveness of certain state initiatives albeit from a well-intentioned standpoint. There is no point in simply serving time without a focus on a profitable outcome for the young person.

So the chicken and egg problem hasn’t been cracked yet.

But hang on: there is a popular initiative which young people themselves have developed. Possibly without realising how brilliant the solution is, they have driven a market for the gap working experience. They themselves have worked out that a year between school and higher education, between job and further education or simply between jobs can prove to be a valuable and challenging time.

The benefits of such a gap are enormous: hands-on experience in a field of interest, together with increased personal development, skills and specialised knowledge. These truly significant benefits are not overlooked or underestimated in the competitive climate of university or employment entry. These institutions view gap experiences as productive and worthwhile; they show the young person to have commitment and enterprise not to mention a subsequent set of increased skills and knowledge. It is however doubtful that this valued work experience includes bar work, working in a shop or in a ski resort! It means working in a responsible job or undertaking a task that will equip a young person with enhanced familiarity and hands-on skills in a specific area.

In a competitive environment, good academic results or a strong CV are rarely sufficient to land yourself on your chosen progress path, be it academic or employment. So perhaps the most important benefit of a working gap experience is that it gives the young person an edge; it introduces a distinction for registrars and employers trying to put a cigarette paper between candidates. For the best opportunities, young people need to stand out. Without something to differentiate themselves, they will look like one of many able students.

But what about the fun, the personal development and the social interaction as a spin-off of a gap working experience? All immeasurable aspects and all of which come as part of the package. A gap working experience? No contest.

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