Researchers at the University of Edinburgh explore student, graduate and employer perceptions of the value of work experience
- Students placed most value on directly relevant internships or work experience, which supports the notion of a 'hierarchy' of experiences.
- Graduates who took part in semi-structured interviews identified that there was value in all of their experiences, including part-time work, volunteering and extracurricular activities.
- Employers clearly valued a wide range of experiences and encouragingly, were keen to stress that a lack of directly relevant work experience would not put students at a disadvantage.
- Students reported that they gained a wide range of skills from their work experience including communication, working under pressure, time management, team working and problem solving. Graduates' perceptions of skills developed was more wide-ranging.
- Graduates identified the role their experiences played in supporting them to develop a graduate identity and to make the transition into the workplace, alongside being able to test out different work environments and clarify their personal values and career aspirations.
- Students identified a range of barriers to being able to undertake work experience including the experience being unpaid, the cost of time spent doing the work experience, travel distance and the costs involved, and living/working in another location.
Download the full report
Experience Works? Exploring the Value of Student Work Experience in the Graduate Labour Market
About the report
This HECSU-funded research report focuses on the following questions:
- What constitutes 'meaningful' work experience to students and graduates? Is there a 'hierarchy' of experiences? For example, is the formal internship type of experience valued above other types of experience?
- What attributes do employers look for in students and graduates? What value do they place on different types of work experience?
- What skills do students and graduates believe they gain from their work experience?
- Are there any barriers to students being able to undertake work experience?
The project aims to ensure that careers service practice is based on sound evidence and understanding, from the literature and informed by the views of students, graduates and employers.
The authors are Rebecca Valentine and Sabrina Keating.
Funding for this research was awarded by HECSU prior to its merger with Jisc in May 2020.
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