Why work experience?
Aside from meeting Ofsted recommendations, there are also clear benefits to work placements:
- Help with future employment: 74% of employers say work experience is significant or critical and a lack of experience is main reason young people are rejected for roles.
- Better academic results: Some studies have shown that students who do work experience improve their performance in exams and coursework.
How to make it easier to set up work experience
Setting up work experience can take time but there are ways to make it easier.
The first option is to use wider networks from your school or college. Connections such as parents, governors, friends and family could all be approached to see if the organisation where they work would be able to help.
Education Business Partnerships (EBP), Local Education Partnerships (LEP) and Jobcentre Plus (JCP) can provide a list of local employers who may offer work experience. Big firms, such as Barclays, BAE and the BBC, also have established programmes. These larger organisations may recruit a number of work placements making it easier for students to adapt to the workplace with the support of their peers.
Finally, if you're spending a significant amount of time and effort on risk assessments for work experience, you may be over-assessing. The Health and Safety Executive says that they should be "in proportion to the level of risk". More advice on how to manage risk assessments for work experience is available on their website.
Alternatives to work experience
If you're not able to facilitate work placements, there are a number of other ways to introduce a taste of the working world to your students:
- Encourage entrepreneurship: With the popularity of The Apprentice and other similar programmes, young people are increasingly drawn to being an entrepreneur. Teachers can encourage this and focus on the skills involved, such as team building, problem solving and supporting others. Try encouraging students to raise money for charity by asking them to devise their own business ventures and organising everything from budgets to marketing.
- Support from local businesses: Some business connections may not be able to commit to providing a work placement. However, they may like to mentor a student or come into your school or college to give a talk. This approach gives students a good opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions. Just ensure that you have vetted mentors and carried out appropriate DBS checks. More information can be found here.
- Careers fairs: Holding a careers fair at your school or college is a great opportunity for businesses to meet prospective future employees and for students to find out more about jobs that may appeal.
- Volunteering opportunities:There are a huge variety of opportunities on offer from working with animals, volunteering at shelters and charity shops. Students can learn and put something back into the community at the same time.
Introducing work experience in whichever form you choose has two-fold benefits. Not only can it boost reputation, but by facilitating life skills such as resilience, communication, problem solving and teamwork, students are better placed to transition smoothly into the next stage of education, training or employment.