British workplaces are being urged to follow the lead increasingly set by U.S employers in using work placements to identify and hire new talent.
A study by vocational qualifications experts, City and Guilds has found that better use of work placements could save millions of workers from ending up in the wrong jobs, so improving employer and employee productivity and slashing the annual bill for hiring and firing.
Work placements allowed employees and employers the chance to test their "compatibility" and values, it added.
One in five British employees had left or were considering leaving a job because they want a change in career, but allowing future employees to try out a career could provide them with a valuable and realistic insight into the job before either side committed themselves.
This is not in itself a new idea. In September a survey by CBcampus.com, a division of recruiter CareerBuilder.com, found that the number of interns being hired by U.S companies was rising sharply, with nearly half of firms expecting to be on the look-out for student talent this year.
And in August, a study by career guide publisher Vault reported that, in an increasingly competitive jobs' market, U.S companies were becoming ever more reliant on interns when it came to sourcing new talent, with salaries rising as a result.
The City & Guilds study has found that, despite talent still at a premium in many areas, more than a third or organisations were not taking advantage of the full benefits that work placements offered.
Judith Norrington, head of national policy development at City and Guilds, said: "UK businesses need to consider work placements as a serious tool in enhancing recruitment and realise the commercial advantages that they can offer their business."
However, nearly two thirds of employers did now offer work placements, with 40 per cent seeing them as a good way of assessing potential staff, while more than a third reckoned they were now a key part of their training and recruitment policy.
"Work placements provide an ideal opportunity for employers to attract experienced adults or career changers into their industry. As the number of young people entering the labour force diminishes by 60,000 each year, employers will need to tap into a broader range of workers of all ages and experience," added Norrington.
"Extending well-planned quality work placements or mentoring and shadowing programmes to career changers and returners should pay dividends for employers and employees, and attract a more diverse and experienced workforce to ensure that businesses remain competitive in the global market," she concluded.