Jim Knight spoke at the launch of a Confederation of British Industry report which found that the vast majority of pupils had enjoyed their placements but 60 per cent did not think it had helped them choose a career. A third of the 1,000 pupils surveyed said that the work had not matched their interests and two out of five said they had not received regular feedback on their progress.
Mr Knight said: "A work experience placement is often the first taste of employment for young people. We have to make sure it's not a bitter taste."
More than 100 employers were also surveyed as part of the research, which was jointly funded by the Department for Education and Skills. Only half offered pupils regular feedback and only a third set them goals. Richard Lambert, the CBI's director-general, said work experience should "bring home" the link between what pupils were doing in schools and what they would do in the workplace.
Izba Hamid, a 15-year-old pupil from Waverley school in Birmingham, is near the end of a stint working on the customer helpline at Land Rover in Solihull.
"I've learnt so many new things," she said. "The hardest has been using the computer system, but the other staff have been very helpful. It has made me decide I want to work for a big car company in future."
Time Well Spent can be ordered at www.cbi.ukbookshop Photograph Tony Hardacre