I have always been passionate about work experience and the value it can have in influencing a young person’s career and I believe that my early experiences and opportunities have shaped who I am and what I do to this day.
After leaving school at 16 with very few qualifications and even less in the way of careers advice, I found myself on a catering course at a local college. Why catering? Because it was practical and this suited my learning style.
During my two-year college course, I undertook two work placements. The first one at age 17 was in a local bakery. This I enjoyed very much despite the early mornings and it led to a part-time job initially and then a full-time job when I finished college. While my career in catering ended at the tender age of 20, I have always maintained my enthusiasm for baking and now many years later I hold the prestigious role of Bake Club Chairman here at ASDAN.
For my second work placement at 18, in my second year at college, I decided that I didn’t want to go to the more traditional hotel or restaurant like everyone else and instead found my own work placement at a local Royal Marines base working in the kitchens. My experience outside of what I was doing in the kitchen sowed a seed in my head and led a few years later to a career in the Royal Marines.
On leaving the forces, I used my military experience to gain a job with SkillForce, working in a range of schools teaching what were then deemed ‘disaffected’ young learners who couldn’t cope with the traditional mainstream curriculum full-time. This is where I was introduced to ASDAN courses, which were used to supplement the timetable and provide appropriate curriculum opportunities for these young learners, focusing on developing their employability skills and life skills.
I believe that work experience is as much about helping a young person to identify what type of job they do not want to do for a career as it is about raising their aspirations and recognising the type of work they do enjoy.
This week I attended the launch event of Work Experience Week 2016, 'Quality matters – making work experience count', as one of the week’s Work Experience Champions.
The key theme at the event was around ‘quality’ and ‘structure’. Providing a quality experience for the young person must be structured and meaningful. Offering work experience also helps employers develop a talent pipeline for their businesses and expand development opportunities for their existing workforce.
Fair Train does a fantastic job in supporting employers with providing high quality work experience placements through their national Work Experience Quality Standard.
ASDAN courses such as the Careers and Experiencing Work Short Course and Workright programme support the development of employability skills and provide the all-important structure to a work experience programme as well as accreditation opportunities.
As a Work Experience Champion, it is important to me to ensure that ASDAN practises what it preaches. We hold the Fair Train Work Experience Quality Standard at Gold Level and have recently created a new structured work experience programme to ensure that every young person doing a work placement with us gets a high quality and meaningful experience.
Simon Lawrence is a Development Co-ordinator at ASDAN