Work experience offers students of today the opportunity to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. Students at school can become familiar with the skills and attitudes needed by modern business and recognise that the demands of working life are undergoing rapid and constant change.
Competitive advantage for all will best be served if students can acquire the right skills and attitudes. Employers can help students develop these qualities and influence their future career choices by providing them with first-hand work experience.
WHAT IS WORK EXPERIENCE?
Work experience may be defined as: a placement on employer’s premises in which a student carries out a particular task or duty, or a range of tasks or duties, more or less as would an employee, but with the emphasis on the learning aspects of the experience.
Work experience is governed by the Education Act 1996, as amended by the School Standards & Framework Act 1998. The main features of work experience are:
Only students in their last two years of compulsory schooling, or students taking post-16 courses, are eligible;
Placements occur on employers’ premises; and the vast majority of pre-16 placements last for two weeks, but post-16 placements can be more varied in length depending on the course being followed.
The ‘hands-on’ nature of work experience placements is distinct from ‘work shadowing’, which involves students in merely observing employees at their particular tasks.
Those under school leaving age may take part only in schemes for which the arrangements have been made, as part of a student’s education, by the Local Education Authority (LEA), or the school’s governing body on its behalf.
The success of a placement relies upon an effective partnership between the employer, the work experience organiser, the school and the student.
BENEFITS TO EMPLOYERS
Work experience placements provide many opportunities and benefits to both employers and students. Those most commonly cited by employers are:
influencing the quality of future employees: employers can help improve the quality and preparedness of young people coming onto the labour market;
development of recruitment channels: building links with local schools can help to attract school leavers into jobs and can reduce recruitment costs;
influencing career choices: many employers have found that work experience placements are the ideal way of raising the profile of career opportunities within their organisation and, in some cases, of dispelling unwarranted stereotyped views;
promotion of vocational qualifications: many students are now studying towards a General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ) pre-16. GNVQs are also widely available in several subjects in schools post-16, and are set to become even more widespread over the next few years. There is clear evidence that well-organised work experience placements enrich students’ general education and help to improve the standard of their vocational work;
raising the community profile: many employers attach importance to raising their profile in the community. Work experience placements provide a valuable means of creating a positive image amongst students, teachers, parents and employees;
creation of management development opportunities: the process of policy development, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of work experience programmes gives