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Digital skills

The catch22 of finding work experience

Two women participate in a mock interview. Both are holding copies of the first woman's CV.

Our Partnerships Manager, Milly Harrison, explores the catch22 of finding work experience – and how our partnership with Salesforce and Movement to Work is helping those with barriers to work gain valuable experience.

There is a catch22 situation for many job seekers we support: how do you get experience if you can’t get a job to build your experience? Many employers are hesitant if a candidate doesn’t have the relevant industry experience for a role, even with entry level jobs. A recent survey revealed that almost two thirds of hiring employers believe experience is the most important asset when recruiting.

Work experience is a great way for a job seeker to develop new skills, build confidence and dip their toes in the world of work, or a new career. Work experience can also act as the vital transition for a young person moving from education into employment.

In September 2021, we were thrilled to work with Salesforce and Movement to Work and offer two weeks of work experience to people facing barriers to work. Candidates joined Salesforce to learn about jobs in tech, both in Salesforce and in the Salesforce ecosystem. Candidates were also given the opportunity to identify the careers they wanted to pursue, and work on a career pathway to move into long-term work.

  • Week One: The first week focused on building participants’ confidence and soft skills. The team set out the expectations of the work experience. The candidates also began developing their presentation skills, communication, and networking. This included meeting Salesforce volunteers and learning about their career paths.
  • Week Two: The second week gave candidates the opportunity to develop their presentation skills, working on self-promotion and their personal working style. Candidates reflected on the skills they had developed over the two-week work experience and explored how they could build these into their job search in the future.

The work experience programme was a huge success, with 93% of participants completing the two weeks of learning. Below we hear what the work experience opportunity meant for three of the participants*:

Jamal said:

“It’s nice to know that there is someone there to listen and understand you and to give me help when needed. I appreciate the whole programme. The support went very hand in hand to help prepare me for my apprenticeship interview. I officially start my Data apprenticeship in November.”

Shreena said:

“I like how Salesforce introduced their company, how they talk us through the different department and what Salesforce offers. My [Catch22] coach put me forward for the Salesforce Work Experience, and I attended each session and Salesforce have kindly given me a mentor. They are helping me apply for UX design roles.”

Tom said:

“At first, I found the work experience overwhelming as I had to take a lot of notes and sit in to listen to the management on the panels. The mock interviews were great as I get nervous before an interview. Salesforce gave me interview tips, like taking a deep breath before answering a question. I feel more relaxed and confident knowing I have support whereas before I didn’t know which direction to go in. I feel more confident applying to positions.”

As the UK economy recovers from the pandemic, employers must continue to offer work experience opportunities to job seekers. Last year, a poll revealed that three fifths of employers (61%) said they had to cancel some or all of their work experience placements.

Sam Stanyer, Operations Manager for Catch22’s Digital Skills employability programmes explained:

“Work experience is a brilliant way for the people we support to get one step closer to the job market. The world of work can seem daunting for many of the people we work with, the Salesforce team were brilliant, and the participants left feeling inspired and hopeful for the future.”

Kirstin Steinmetz is Director of Workforce Development, EMEA at Salesforce. She said:

“We are thrilled to be working with Movement to Work and Catch22 on this work experience programme. We understand that work experience offers a vital opportunity for people facing barriers to work, it was a pleasure to watch the participants develop their skills and confidence over the two-week programme.”

We would like to thank our partners, Salesforce, and Movement to Work for coordinating and delivering this opportunity for the people we support.