If you’re in secondary or post-16 education, it is probable that some form of work experience placement will be part of a planned careers education programme. Details should be published on their website. Work experience in Year 10, 11 and 12 is particularly useful and can help unlock future opportunities in the workplace.
Why is work experience important?
There are many reasons why a carefully planned work experience, in Year 10, 11 and 12, is important and can have a positive impact for young people.
What you can do to make work experience a success:
Don’t expect to have a particular career in mind too early. You should encourage yourself to keep an open mind about possible placements. Work experience is not necessarily about preparing for a specific job, although some work experience placements might be designed to offer insights into a specific career. More importantly, you need a more general insight into what workplaces are like.
Extensive research evidence shows that young people often consider careers which are not necessarily those where there are the greatest employment opportunities. Often career choices are led by gender stereotypes. For example, there is a large number of girls looking for careers in hair and beauty, and the same boys looking to work in the sports sector. You should look as broadly as possible, especially explore workplaces about which they and you know less. Use publications like Careermag to learn together with your parents, carers or guardians. Your school can help to understand what the labour market looks like in your area.
Remember that the world of work is changing rapidly and will undoubtedly have developed since your parents chose their career. You should have an open mind about opportunities for placements. They might open some exciting doors for the future. There are countless exciting opportunities which you can only find out about by going and having a look.
If there is an opportunity for you to gain some experience through a visit or short placement to your parent’s workplace or that of one of the family this is great.
Nevertheless, it is equally important that your parents do not impose their view about which careers are right for you. Instead you should look into careers and industry sectors about which you know little or those which interest you, then you can tell your parents about them.
Don’t necessarily wait for the school to find a placement. Employers love it when young people show initiative and approach them directly. Schools work hard to find placements for students but realistically the best placements will go to those students who get to the front of the queue.
You should apply for your work experience placement early and prepare a high quality CV or letter of application if that is required. Explore what might be available in your area.
Your school will almost certainly have visiting speakers and activities involving employers. You should follow up any of these by asking the visitor if there is any chance of a placement or visit. Some may be willing to offer a placement during the school holidays.
Many students complete work experience in the summer term of Year 10, however, you can complete it at any time. Whether you’re looking for work experience in Year 10, 11 or 12 – there are options.
If you have expressed an interest in one particular job, such as a doctor, ensure that you look more widely within that sector as well. For instance, there are countless types of highly qualified professional careers in healthcare which may be really interesting that you don’t even know about and easier to access than a traditional route.
It may well be easier to get a placement which provides an insight into some of these roles. In the past nearly all careers had recognisable titles such as doctor, accountant, teacher, butcher etc. Now many of the roles have much less obvious titles such as customer success manager or digital communicator. Often we forget that organisations employ a vast range of different types of job roles.
Going into a workplace can be quite a nerve-wracking experience for a young person. Turn to your parents and teachers for support. They can help you prepare for this and overcome these nerves by telling you what you might expect and drawing on their experience.
Use every opportunity to talk to your parents, carers and guardians about the world of work and bring it to life. By helping to find answers to your questions and learning about the exciting opportunities out there, you will be doing a vast amount to help you on the way to happy fulfilled working lives.
*This article was created by Brian Lightman, Educationalist and Leader of PiXL Futures.