Identify what you want to achieve through the placement
• Are you looking to find out more about a specific career?
• Are you looking to acquire employability skills?
• Are you looking to develop self-awareness, independence and confidence?
• Are you looking to see how school subjects that interest you are linked to the world of work?
• Are you seeking to acquire an understanding of local job opportunities?
Finding a work experience placement can be tricky. The following points may be useful:
• Liaise with your school to see if any of the work experience opportunities they have access to are appealing and relevant
• Seek the assistance of friends and family to see what opportunities arise through your network of contacts.
• Search the internet for local opportunities within your area of interest
• Search local papers for opportunities. Some job advertised job opportunities may also be suitable for work experience placement
• Make the effort to research thoroughly any potential opportunities you identify to ensure you are enthusiastic and interested in what it offers and that it will meet your objectives for work experience
• Contact the company directly either by telephone requesting a placement and if the answer is yes, then arrange a time to visit to see if it will be suitable from both the employer and pupil’s point of view. Alternatively the company can be contacted by e mail or letter but a direct, personal contact is recommended. Often younger pupils may be overlooked because of age but should the employer have the opportunity to meet him or her they may be pleasantly surprised by the maturity and enthusiasm that the young person demonstrates.
• Don’t be disheartened if you have to contact a number of organisations before one agrees to meet you.
Guidance outlining the objectives of work experience must be given to organisations that have not taken students before. When pupils are placed as a personal favour rather than a formal education-business link, the school in the first instance must make sure that the organisation has the resources and capacity to plan and implement a worthwhile programme. If the organisation is not one of the school’s regular contacts or known personally by the family then it is important that safeguarding arrangements are fully understood and implemented. This is something the school will check as a priority but parents are advised to ensure their child’s safety and well-being during the placement.
If not an automatic part of the process, the young person should be encouraged to attend a pre-placement interview. This will help to allay any first-day nerves about what to wear, who to report to, lunch and housekeeping arrangements and most importantly to agree a programme for the placement period. The student must communicate what their objectives are and how these can best be achieved within the time available. There is usually paperwork to be signed completed prior to the placement and this visit will be an opportunity to do this. Both school and family can support the young person in preparing for the interview as for many younger pupils this is likely to be the first formal interview they have attended.
Once a placement is agreed, parents can ensure that the young person is aware of the implications of where they will be working in terms of what they can expect to achieve as well as working and domestic arrangements. Travel arrangements – knowing where to go and how to get there – must be understood well in advance. The young person must also be clear who they contact in the event of any issues arising and if they are unable to attend for any reason.
Realism is vital. Often young people have unrealistic expectation about what they may able to do and should be encouraged to maintain a positive approach, focusing on what they are learning and achieving. Schools rely on the goodwill of employers to offer placement opportunities. No experience will be wasted if it is a learning opportunity to inform future progression.