Work experience: employer guide

Updated 14 February 2024


If you are a business and interested in supporting young people who are looking for work, you can offer work experience through Jobcentre Plus. 

Work experience organised by Jobcentre Plus is open to: 

  • young people who are aged 18 to 24 years old 
  • people aged 25 and over who do not have recent work history 

For some young people a lack of understanding of the working world is a significant barrier to finding and sustaining employment. Jobcentre Plus wants to work with you to offer young jobseekers the opportunity to overcome this barrier through work experience placements. 

The chance to undertake real work and adjust to the routines and habits of working life can significantly improve their employment prospects. 

Offering work experience to a much wider age group can also be highly effective in supporting people to find employment, especially if they have been away from work for some time. It can develop or re-fresh their skills and help them gain confidence, supporting them to move closer to employment. Older participants may well bring a range of skills that can positively contribute to your business.

Why you should get involved

By helping young people to gain work experience, your business can reap real benefits, such as:

  • developing the supervisory and management skills of your current workforce
  • enhancing your public profile by supporting your local community
  • accessing a pool of hidden talent – people who offer enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to your business
  • promoting workforce diversity

There is a strong social case too. We know that an extended period of unemployment, if experienced at an early age, can affect future employment prospects and lead to disadvantages, such as ill-health and poverty.

The cost to society of this, both financially and socially, is huge. It is vital that government, business and voluntary and community sector organisations work together to support young people.

We must especially support those struggling to make the transition from school to work, to prepare for, find and sustain employment.

How it works

Work experience through Jobcentre Plus will enable young, unemployed people (or other age groups) to volunteer for placements lasting between 2 and 8 weeks. These volunteers will be matched with suitable host employers and complete a light touch selection process.

We’ll continue to pay participants’ benefits and will also cover the costs of travel and childcare if necessary. Hosts do not pay participants and doing so might affect their benefit entitlement.

Young people who have spent up to 8 weeks in a work experience opportunity can have their placement extended by up to 4 weeks where an employer makes an offer to take them on to an apprenticeship.

Become a work experience host through Jobcentre Plus

If you are interested in offering work experience, please contact the Employer Services Line on 0800 169 0178. They will arrange a meeting to discuss how you can work with us to support young unemployed people.

We want you to be innovative and offer placements that provide a real insight into a working environment. Employers of all sizes in any sector can offer work experience as long as they meet the terms and conditions set out in the agreement with Jobcentre Plus.

We are also happy to work with employers who can offer more than one placement and large employers with multiple branches. We will enter into an agreement on a national level, covering all branches, which avoids signing multiple agreements.

We won’t be prescriptive about the structure of placements or make you fill out unnecessary forms and paperwork. However, we’ll ask you to:

  • provide work experience placements which are suitable for young unemployed people (and other age groups) with little or no work experience
  • comply with all relevant legislation
  • guarantee that placements are in addition to existing or planned vacancies and that no-one has been dismissed or made redundant so the placement can be offered
  • allow participants to carry out reasonable job search activity and attend interviews with prospective employers and fortnightly job search reviews at Jobcentre Plus
  • share information on participants with Jobcentre Plus
  • provide participants with a reference at the end of the placement

These requirements will be agreed between yourselves and Jobcentre Plus.

This agreement will also explain what you can expect from Jobcentre Plus. We’ll provide you with a single point of contact and offer support and advice as needed.

Once you’re a work experience host with Jobcentre Plus

Planning placements

We’ll ask you to plan placements which provide opportunities for skills development and expose participants to the routines of the working environment.

You will also need to consider who in your business will be responsible for supervising participants. Read more on managing placements and supporting participants.

To help us match suitable people to your placements, we’ll ask you for some information on:

  • the number of placements you can offer
  • the length of the placement (which can be between 2 and 8 weeks or up to 12 weeks when linked to an apprenticeship for up to 30 hours per week)
  • what the work experience person will be doing
  • how you want us to refer people to your placement

Selecting participants

You will need to decide on what role you want to play in the selection process. There are 2 options:

We can manage selection on your behalf

This makes it hassle-free for you. We’ll only refer suitable, motivated participants who have demonstrated an interest in the placement you’re offering.

You can interview a small number of suitable candidates that we select

Most candidates will not have much, if any, interview experience and conventional interview techniques may not be appropriate. We recommend using more informal approaches to gauge the enthusiasm and commitment of candidates instead of looking at their academic credentials or past achievements. We’d ask you to provide some feedback on unsuccessful candidates to help them develop their interview technique.

Managing placements

Jobcentre Plus will prepare participants for placements before they begin. Participants will know what they can expect from you, their duties and responsibilities.

We will inform them of arrangements for claiming travel, disability support and childcare costs. Nevertheless, we suggest you provide an induction to help them settle in – at a minimum, you’ll need to talk to them about health and safety in your workplace. Get more tips on inductions.

A strong relationship between participants and their supervisors is vital to ensuring they get the most out of the placement. You can foster such a relationship by assigning each participant a supervisor who has sufficient time in their schedule to coach them, provide regular feedback and be a point of contact for any concerns.

In cases of unexplained absences and misconduct you can get in touch with your Jobcentre Plus contact. Your contact will be available throughout the placement to offer support and guidance.

Participants will continue to look for work during their placement. This means that you will need to release participants to attend job search reviews at Jobcentre Plus and interviews with prospective employers.

If you have any concerns about this, you can talk to your Jobcentre Plus contact.

Supporting participants

The key principle for supporting participants during the placement should be to treat them as regular employees as far as possible, but recognise that, given their lack of work experience, they might need some additional coaching and supervision.

Below you’ll find some suggestions about things you may want to consider when planning the placement to help both you and the participant get the most from the experience.


A good induction will help participants to settle into the working environment and your business. We recommend that participants’ inductions closely mirror those of new permanent employees so they get a sense of what it would be like to be a real new starter. However, since most participants will be completely new to the world of work, you may have to provide some additional coaching, for example how to use a photocopier or how to address customers.

A model induction would cover:

  • management reporting arrangements
  • an introduction to colleagues
  • an overview of your business and its values
  • a tour around the workplace
  • guidance on using any specialist equipment
  • standard workplace practices such as health and safety issues, security procedures, dress code, sick leave and absence arrangements, and break times

Regular feedback and exit interviews

Constructive, honest and supportive feedback will encourage participants to reflect on their performance, value their achievements and identify areas for improvement.

It may be appropriate to ask participants to keep a record of their progress to help them consolidate their learning. A discussion at the end of the placement would provide a more formal opportunity to provide final feedback and also give you the opportunity to ask participants how future placements could be improved.

We’ll ask you to provide participants with a reference at the end of the placement that they can use in their future job applications.

If a well-suited person needs workplace adjustments because of their health or disability the Access to Work scheme can fund participants’ additional costs.

Job search support

During their placement, participants will continue to look for permanent jobs and we know that they would really value any advice you could offer. This support could take many forms including:

  • discussing their career aspirations and plans to realise their goals
  • providing an insight into the careers of people in your business and the routes into your profession
  • offering advice on completing application forms, cover letters and CVs
  • helping them to prepare for interviews

Mentoring and buddying

Many organisations who offer work experience assign participants mentors or buddies who act as a role model and ‘first friend’ in the organisation.

This is a particularly effective way of easing young people’s transition into the working world. Mentors and buddies should be good listeners and able to relate to young people.


It may be useful for a participant to shadow different members of staff to gain an insight into the variety of roles within your business. Shadowing should not be the only activity participants undertake during the placement – in order to gain an insight into realistic work, it is vital that you give participants a chance to get involved in real on-the-job activities.

What the work experience participant gains from the placement

All work experience participants will be volunteers who have demonstrated a genuine interest in gaining work experience with your business. Although they will have little or no work experience and may have limited skills they will be motivated and willing to learn. They will use this opportunity to demonstrate what they can already achieve and some of the benefits for them will include the following:

  • gaining experience of going into a work environment and learning about the demands and etiquette involved in day-to-day work
  • learning new skills or updating current skills to meet the needs of a fast-moving modern workplace
  • building overall confidence, motivation and well-being
  • populating their CV with what they have learnt and therefore demonstrate their commitment to finding work to potential employers
  • a better understanding of the job market so that they can make informed decisions when finding work
  • demonstrating a willingness to learn new skills
  • moving closer to training, apprenticeships or employment

Participants will continue to receive their benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit and will continue to be subject to the benefit conditions.

We know that regular contact with Jobcentre Plus work coaches is very important to encourage jobseekers to take reasonable action to find work. Maintaining the attendance requirement will help keep participants focused on looking for and finding work.

Further information

More information on being a work experience host can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website. It gives more information on employers’ requirements around the health and welfare of young people.

The CIPD ‘Making work experience work: Guide for employers’ gives more information on how to make the most of a work experience opportunity.

If you are interested in offering work experience, or would like further information about the services available to support your recruitment needs, please contact the Employer Services Line. They can offer advice and will be able to connect you with a local Jobcentre Plus specialist.

You can contact the Employer Services Line using the online enquiry form or by phone.

Employer Services Line
Telephone: 0800 169 0178
Textphone: 0800 169 0172
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