A well-designed and well-structured work experience programme can bring a multitude of benefits to businesses of all sizes. From bringing in fresh, diverse talent to ensuring you have the skills you need for the future. Here are six boosts that work experience students can bring to your business:

1) Innovation through diversity

Businesses of all sizes are working hard to build inclusive and diverse workforces. Not only because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do but because it can bring tangible benefits to businesses. A 2015 McKinsey report found companies with a diverse mix of employees are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors and have financial returns above the national industry average.

Using work experience to access a pool of talent beyond the existing demographic of your organisation means that from the very outset, diverse minds, with differing perspectives and ideas, can be brought into the business. The right mix of genders, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds ensures a range of experiences are brought to the table. It is this variety of viewpoints that can help avoid groupthink and inspire innovation. Work experience students can bring this mixture of approaches to creative tasks, product innovation and problem-solving, for example, just some of the critical areas where a diverse team boosts results.

2) Save time on recruitment

Recruitment can be costly, both in time and money. For many employers, particularly in SMEs, recruiting the best team can be a significant use of these precious resources. Using work experience as a recruitment tool can make reductions to both the time and money spent on recruitment. Recruiting for the right skills can be expensive, but by utilising work experience to develop business critical knowledge and experience with talented undergraduates, you can save on future recruitment costs. Using technology like Placer that offers structure and scale to access a wider range of students looking for work experience, can save additional costs and vital resources.

3) Find your future employees

As well as saving on recruitment costs, offering quality work experience can be a great way to meet your future employees. Work experience opportunities, be it a week, a month or a year, can be the first step to building a relationship between talented undergraduates and employers. Successful work experience placements not only ensure students develop relevant skills and knowledge, but gives them the experience of working in your organisation, and with your team members, more broadly.

Making the time while students are in their placement to give them a full induction into the business and meet different members of staff can help to develop a positive experience on both sides. Building relationships through quality work experience placements means you can begin to develop a pool of talent to cherry pick possible candidates from when graduate roles arise.

4) Develop work-ready talent

It is no secret that employers need graduates to be a willing contributor from day one of employment. For an increasing number of businesses, a student’s education alone is no longer enough. A recent report from the CIPD ‘The graduate employment gap: expectations versus reality’ confirms this, with unemployment figures of graduates, particularly in STEM subjects, remaining high, despite an increased focus on STEM education. What this illustrates is the importance of developing interpersonal skills and employability attributes through work experience, so that students can graduate workplace-ready.

Offering quality work experience opportunities for students can ensure that, alongside their education, students obtain the knowledge and skills needed to be ready for work. For employers, using work experience to develop students’ skills in this way means that when you are ready to recruit, graduates can hit the ground running.

5) Plug skills gaps

It is well known that the UK is facing a growing skills gap in the face of an ever-changing economy. Businesses across the country are calling for graduates to have high levels of, for example, digital and technical skills to contribute immediately to future proofing the economy. Work experience students are a fantastic way to bring the specific skills you need into your business. Advertising work experience opportunities in an area where you know you need to strengthen expertise, means while a student is still in education, they can build up the skills you need; ready to start applying their skills practically, as soon as they graduate.

6) Meet the millennials

Employers are keen to recruit millennial and digitally-native talent into their organisation. Work experience is the perfect way to meet millennial talent and take advantage of their fresh thinking. They are, after all, the consumers of the future. Recruiting work experience students brings new perspectives and ideas, which can also help energise existing staff. And a new eye from outside of the business can often be better placed to spot ways to renew existing systems or processes. Millennials with vitally important tech skills also offer a great opportunity to implement a reverse-mentoring system and upskill members of the team who may need to give their digital expertise a boost.

If you’re an employer looking to offer work experience, or you already do, sign-up to Placer placer.co.uk/employers

David Docherty is CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Businesses (NCUB) and Chairman of Placer.