Interserve: Supporting young people transition to work [Case study]

21 September 2016 -


Interserve is forging a path for young people to develop their careers and nurture their skiils from class room to office

International support services and construction group, Interserve, constantly strives to improve the communities in which it works as well as the lives of those who live in them.

Part of the company’s sustainability strategy is to take on more young people from all backgrounds to increase diversity and help grow a culture of innovation. Over the last 18 months, Interserve and its charity, the Interserve Employee Foundation, have been working to make this mission reality.

Where to start

Leah Shafik, Group Work Placement Manager, came in to implement the new strategy.

She explains: “The question was: how can we use our significant influence as a large business to build lasting relationships with schools and other organisations and get the most out of them?”

The answer lay in formalising the approach and coordinating all activity from one place.

“We are structuring the work experience and apprenticeship programmes, and developing more ways to invite young people into our business.”

Back to school

To match the schools’ needs with the work experience placements available Interserve develops tailored programmes together with schools, colleges and other providers.

It’s not always easy to get in touch with schools but there are things organisations can do to get the ball rolling, such as getting in touch with the education lead in the local authority or the Education Business Partnership network, says Shafik.

Part of the job is to educate teachers about business opportunities in the area.

“They are often the ones giving career advice, but also often lack the knowledge about jobs and careers available in their area.”

According to Shafik, that’s because experience of the world of work doesn’t play a big role in Ofsted assessments of school performance: “All that many schools are forced to care about is getting students through their GCSEs, keeping them on for sixth form and getting them into university.”

The other part of the job is to get young people in the classroom excited and inspired.

Workshops give them a flavour of what working for the company could involve, the value of the work they do and the kind of salary they can expect.

“We often surprise young people with the variety of roles within the business – from cleaners to architects and from nurses to rehabilitating offenders.”

Work experience

All employees receive an induction and an information pack, so they know how to support someone on work experience.

Before getting stuck in, the young people also go through an induction where they learn about the business. They receive information about the types of jobs available at Interserve, as well as broader career advice on what skills most large businesses will be looking for.

The actual work experience focuses on the two sides of any job: the technical side and the ‘softer’ side, including personal, communication and people skills, which underpin good management and leadership.

Young people get a workbook that includes tasks such as doing research, preparing presentations or inputting data. Then there are so-called bootcamps, which are all about employability, management and leadership skills, enterprise skills and personal branding.

“We try to make it interactive. So we get a group of them to write a job specification, give that to a member of the team and interview them as a panel. We flip the process on its head.”

Stepping it up a gear – Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are often the next step for those having completed work experience.

A number of our existing apprentices started their career with Interserve via this route and we are currently developing career pathways for all early talent entering the organisation.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 gives Interserve a great opportunity to increase the number of apprentices recruited and work experience will be just one of the pathways for recruitment.

Interserve recently commissioned a report on apprenticeships with one of the key findings being that positive attitudes towards apprenticeships still rank lower than other, largely academic-based career pathways among young people and their parents.


Find out what’s out there – there are many organisations out there ready to put you in touch with schools, just as there are many schools out there who’d love to get in touch with employers.

Find enthusiastic employees who love working with young people – get them involved, gear them up and get them talking to schools and other organisations. Make it part of their job and their appraisal process.

Trust the domino effect – once one team or department has taken on board young people, more than likely they’ll enjoy it and spread the word, and more will follow.

Make it meaningful – when there is a relationship with a school, make it count and get the most out of it. Speak to teachers and students and develop programmes that benefit.

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