Supporting and developing employability really matters to us at Centrica. 

A Centrica graduate takes part in an engineering placement. Image Credit: Centrica Graduate and Summer Placement Recruitment facebook page.

“We believe that high-quality, meaningful work experience is the best way to build employability.”

Our Chief Executive, Sam Laidlaw, chaired the CBI’s Higher Education Task Force and often talks about the importance of employability, and it is a recurring theme in the discussions of our HR leadership. 

To show that we are also prepared to ‘walk the walk’ we have increased our undergraduate work experience places by 50%. In addition, we offer sponsorship to engineering students to encourage them to take work experience, whether it be on a Centrica programme or not.   

We believe that high-quality, meaningful work experience is the best way to build employability. We are growing our Year In Industry participation significantly, as well as running initiatives like the Money Can’t Buy programme across UK universities to create our widest range of internships to date.

As well as providing real, worthwhile, stimulating projects, I strongly believe that work experience should be paid. 

This is not just because it upholds the principle of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, but also because it ensures the opportunities are accessible to all. At Centrica we go a step further and provide paid-for accommodation to our Summer Placement students, whilst also ensuring that opportunities are available across our UK operations.        

In addition to encouraging work experience, employers can also promote employability by supporting external organisations that have specialist knowledge and a wide reach. 

This is about more than just writing a cheque once a year, it is about forming genuine, long-standing partnerships. 

The Centrica Graduate Team works closely with organisations such as Enactus, EDT, Inspiring The Future and the Social Mobility Foundation to increase aspiration and help people build the skills and experience they need for success. And hundreds of Centrica volunteers, including myself, attend events and work directly with these organisations to try to make a personal difference.

“The task of enhancing people’s employability does not, of course, stop at the first paycheque.” 

When developing the employability of the next generation, employers should not exclusively focus on school-leavers or graduates, they must also think about reaching out to schools.  

By sponsoring Teach First and coaching some of their amazing teachers, at Centrica we hope to help change standards of education and aspiration within disadvantaged communities and give young people the start they deserve. 

If we see some of these students in a few years’ time on our emerging talent programmes it will be the perfect win-win, but if they go on to be successful elsewhere that’s also a great result for the individuals and the UK economy.       

The task of enhancing people’s employability does not, of course, stop at the first paycheque. 

Our award-winning Graduate Programme is a significant investment in emerging talent employability. As someone who joined Centrica through the Graduate Programme, I have a personal passion for this scheme.

And beyond the Graduate scheme, by providing the right development opportunities to our people we help build their employability throughout their careers.

All employers can play a part in supporting and developing people’s employability. And there are a variety of ways in which they can do that. Offering paid, worthwhile work experience and partnering with other organisations are, I would say, good places to start. 

Jill Shedden is Group HR Director at Centrica

The Student Employability Index, from NCUB and Compass Group, surveyed students for their views on careers services, work experience, employability and future employment. Read it now