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Widening the field: valuing different types of job experience

Published on: 24 Jan 2024

Experience isn’t always measured in years, but entry-level job specifications requesting too many years of employment could be putting off graduate applicants.

Valuing different types of job experience

Working in the health and safety profession can provide people with an interesting, varied, and challenging career. But, like many professions, it can be a struggle to attract graduate talent in a fiercely competitive marketplace.  

In some cases, however, the issue could lie with the job specification. Many positions that are advertised as entry-level also state the need for a certain amount of experience, with two years often specified.

Graduates looking for potential career opportunities are likely to move on to a sector that doesn’t have such requirements, and that talent may then be gone for good. 

A recent data analysis by IOSH provides a glimpse into the issue. Using Scotland as an example, in July this year there were around OSH 300 jobs advertised. Of these, 20 were advertised as entry-level positions. But, on closer examination, just two of these had no experience requirements.  

Graduate guarantees

Yet graduates have many qualities and experiences that are valuable in the workplace. There may be transferable skills from the subjects they have studied; degrees such as law, business or engineering all have elements of health and safety within them, and it may be this that has piqued an interest in making this a career.  

Other experiences can also demonstrate an individual’s capabilities. Graduates will have significant experience of working in groups, taking on specific projects, presenting to peers and time management skills. They’ve often undertaken work experience placements, whether that’s at university or while they were at school. Some may have spent a year in industry or won awards during their time at university. 

Transferable skills such as team working and organisation are crucial in OSH. Many graduates will have taken part in competitive sports, pushing themselves to reach the highest level or being part of a wider team where working together is essential.  

Others may have taken part in extracurricular activities, joining clubs or volunteering activities. And in the face of high tuition fees and a cost-of-living crisis, most will have worked in other jobs, either at university or in holiday periods. This will have given them experience of the world of work and demonstrate their ability to stick at a job.  

All of this should be valued by employers, and recruiters. And it may well be. But the risk is that talented individuals just see the line stating ‘two years’ experience required’ and don’t apply.  

There are some jobs, of course, which do genuinely need experience. In cases where individuals will be required to work with clients unsupervised or take on tasks that require some additional knowledge or nous, it would be inappropriate to use someone who has just joined straight out of university. But these jobs would typically be aimed at second-jobbers, and therefore should not be advertised as entry-level. In turn, second-jobbers will not usually apply for posts that are marked as entry-level, particularly if the pay also reflects this.  

Widening the field 

By removing the requirement for a number of years’ experience when advertising for positions, employers may find they receive more applications from a wider range of candidates. Not only could this help to fill positions with talented people, but it could also bring individuals into the profession who otherwise may be lost. It could help to diversify the profession, encouraging more people from different backgrounds to think about a career in health and safety.  

Many businesses may not have given much thought to those few words, and in some cases, they may be a legacy of previous job adverts or preferences. Deleting them could make all the difference.  

For more information on how to find the talent you need, read IOSH's advice piece.