New guidance on work experience for schools


The Department for Education has published advice to colleges and school sixth forms following the findings of an evaluation of a work experience pilot for 16- to 18-year-olds.

Professor Alison Wolf recommended in her independent review of vocational education that work experience should be an integral part of programmes of study for all 16- to 19-year-olds, and that the Department for Education should run a pilot to test different approaches to improve the quality and scale of placements offered by providers. The new study programmes came in from this academic year.

The guidance says each college and school sixth form should consider either appointing an existing member of staff as a specialist work experience co-ordinator, or recruiting one. The trials found co-ordinators raised the status of work experience in institutions, were a cost-effective way of ensuring work experience became a priority and were vital in developing relationships with employers so they offer placements.

The guidance also says colleges and school sixth forms should:

  • ensure that students who have completed work experience get some form of feedback from employers and also to provide employers with feedback to improve the quality of future placements
  • match students to placement opportunities - by looking at their existing skills, the qualifications they are taking and their possible future career options - and then prepare them fully beforehand
  • be flexible in terms of timing and length of placements - they could be once a week throughout a term, longer block placements, or a rotation of shorter placements at different employers so students can experience different aspects of the sector. This will depend on employers’ capacity and what the student needs to become work-ready.

Professor Alison Wolf said: “Today’s labour market is globalised and highly competitive - high-quality, relevant work experience can make a critical difference to a young person’s chances of getting a good job.

“Skills developed in the workplace are rewarded by employers over and above even the skills learned in formal education. Experience of a real workplace is also the best way to discover what you really like doing and where you want to go in life."

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