Almost two thirds (64%) of businesses in the East Midlands do not offer work experience opportunities to young people according to research by GoThinkBig, a website that offers support for young people trying to get into the workplace, set up by O2 and Bauer.

Research amongst businesses across the UK shows that the East Midlands has the greatest “work experience gap” in England. Across the nation as a whole 43% of businesses offer experience while in the North East two in three companies (66%) say they bring young people in to get a feel for the firm. Across the UK as a whole, Northern Ireland is the area most in need of more placements as just a quarter of the companies welcome young people in.

The findings come from GoThinkBig’s first “Work Experience Deficit Map” of the UK. It is designed to shine a light on the areas of the country most in need of support from businesses, specifically in the form of work experience opportunities for 16-24 year olds. The map has shown that there is a strong link between levels of youth unemployment regionally and the numbers of businesses that offer experience in those areas – 18% of 16-24 year olds in the East Midlands is unemployed.

GoThinkBig also found that there are currently over 460,000 people out of work in the UK who say that they have been unable to find work experience relevant to the field they want to get into.

Bill Eyres, Head of Sustainability at Telefonica O2 UK says; “We know that when businesses assess candidates for jobs, experience in the workplace is the first thing they look for.  However, findings from the Work Experience Deficit Map show that for many young people across the nation, there are not enough opportunities available, creating a catch 22 situation. We would urge companies to step up to the plate and do more by making opportunities available and promote them harder to the young people who so desperately need them in their areas.”

The UK Work Experience Deficit Map


%age of businesses that DO offer work experience by region

North East


West Midlands


Yorkshire & Humberside


South West


East Anglia


UK Average






North West


South East


East Midlands


Northern Ireland

25% is helping to address the issue by making thousands of work skills opportunities open to all young people, enabling them to access these through a single website – as well as providing information about how young people can best place themselves to succeed in securing them.

Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa, Head of GoThinkBig said:

“With 950,000** young people unemployed in the UK, we’d urge more businesses to open their doors and welcome in young talent. It’s a fantastic way to energise your workplace, encourage fresh thinking and capitalise on young people’s latent digital skills and willingness to learn. All our research shows that experience is the key to opening the door to the world of work – this is what so many employers look at when assessing candidates for full time jobs.”

“We’re striving to help businesses – as well as young people – in the deficit areas by holding skills and training days that offer advice to those struggling to get their foot in the door.”

The partners, including O2, Bauer Media, ITN, Capgemini, MediaCom and Reed Smith provide a variety of relevant options including skills days, internships, apprenticeships, work placements, graduate entry schemes and full time employment posts.

GoThinkBig was set up by O2 and Bauer Media in October 2012 with £5 million in funding from the two companies and a commitment to make 30,000 experience and skills opportunities available in its first three years.



* based on a nationally representative survey of 1,125 young people aged 16-25 and a nationally representative survey of 500 UK businesses by OnePoll carried out 15 October 2012.


** ONS Data published 12 June 2013:


Hope&Glory PR for GoThinkBig

t: 020 7566 9747



About Think Big

Young people are full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. As one of the UK’s leading digital businesses, we believe that we can, and should, play a part in inspiring a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial young people. We want to back them. Invest in them. Campaign for them. Give them a platform and a voice.

That’s why O2 is the driving force behind Think Big – a series of programmes to help 1 million young people gain skills for life by 2015.

We encourage young people to harness their talents and passions to lead projects and campaigns in their local communities. Any young person with a great idea can apply for a grant of up to £300 to run a community project. From homework clubs to community radio stations, mobile app development to recycling initiatives, we give young people money and trust to turn their ideas into action.

In addition to financial support, young people receive training and mentoring support from experienced O2 professionals, to help make their projects a success.  With the help of over 70 youth charities, including the National Youth Agency and UK Youth, Think Big has now supported over 4,000 Big Ideas across the UK.

We’re also excited by the possibilities of new technology, so we’re helping a new generation of young people to develop digital skills – enabling them to not only use digital technology, but to also design and create it. In partnership with Young Enterprise, the Mozilla Foundation and UK secondary schools, we offer a free online training and host two day workshops called Think Big schools across the country, which help young people become digital makers.

Finally, we know that the job market is tough for young people, so we’ve joined forces with Bauer Media, to create, an innovative digital platform which offers careers advice, tools and thousands of high quality work experience and skills opportunities to help young people get a foot on the career ladder. We’re working in partnership with UK businesses including Channel 4, Reed Smith, Capgemini, Spotify and many others to offer 30,000 work opportunities to young people through GoThinkBig in the next 3 years.

The Think Big programme is now supported by the Telefonica Foundation.

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on: 01753 565656
Virgin Media
press enquiries
press enquiries