High quality work experience can play a key role in preparing learners for the workplace and equipping them with vital core skills that are not always taught or developed in the classroom. These skills, which ASDAN develops through many of its courses and which employers say are so important, include:
- working with others
- problem solving
- carrying out research
- the ability to communicate
Through work experience, learners with a good idea of what they want to do for their careers get the chance to deepen their knowledge of their chosen field and gain industry contacts. Successful placements can sometimes result in apprenticeships or job offers. Similarly, more generic placements can also be immensely helpful in giving people a rounded experience of the workplace as well as introducing them to new professions or areas of work that they previously had not perhaps considered.
Benefits for organisations
Employers, too, have much to gain from providing work experience. By offering work placements, businesses and organisations can show they care about the community, which humanises their brand and enhances their reputation. Learners bring many benefits to companies including:
- new ideas
- a fresh perspective on products and services
- help with workload – young people can undertake manageable tasks such as basic research and administration
- CPD opportunities for staff through mentoring and supervision
New work experience programme
Last year, ASDAN launched a new work experience programme to ensure we are giving young people a rewarding and engaging placement with us. Several learners have since undertaken the programme and have told us how beneficial it’s been and how much they’ve enjoyed it. One 16-year-old from Bristol wrote a recent blog on how her time in our IT department helped her take the next step towards a career in IT. Based on the learning from this new work experience programme and my involvement in facilitating these placements, I’ve listed my top four tips to help educators organise great work experience.
1. Encourage learners to ‘own’ their placement by organising it themselves
Students that have put the time into researching local companies, find one they like and then take a big deep breath and pick up the phone or pen a polite email are much more likely to value their placement. After all, they’ve put in the hard work to make it happen so they now own it. It’s also a good first foray into the working world where the onus is on you to seek out opportunities and be pro-active.
2. Prepare your learners to be professional
Once the shock of not being at school wears off, it’s got to be down to business. A lot of what we do over the course of a week at ASDAN is showing students what it means to be a professional in the workplace. You can encourage your students to complete the following simple but effective actions:
- be on time
- be courteous and introduce yourself to others
- show willing and interest with a can-do attitude
- turn your phone off or at least refrain from checking it constantly
- take responsibility for yourself and your actions, and recognise you are one part of a busy business rather than the focus of it
3. Encourage the learner to undertake a pre-placement visit
Where possible, encourage your learners to arrange a visit to the organisation before their placement. At ASDAN, we love to meet students beforehand – it doesn’t have to take long, but our experience is that it always makes things go just that little bit more smoothly. Our meetings last about 15 minutes where we:
- have an introductory, informal chat
- explain what we do and our vision and values
- give the learner a tour of the building
- introduce the learner to the people they’ll be working with
This pre-placement visit makes the first day much less scary for everybody, and also gives the organisation a chance to think about what they’ve got planned and to tailor things so that the learner gets the most out of the experience.
4. Arrange accreditation for the placement, where possible
We offer all students undertaking work experience at ASDAN the chance to complete a module of our Careers and Experiencing Work Short Course. Through the process of collecting evidence and reflecting on the skills they have developed, learners not only recognise the value of their experience but also have an opportunity to celebrate their achievements. The learners’ beaming smiles when they are presented with their certificate shows how much they value this recognition. Centres must be registered with ASDAN to deliver the Careers and Experiencing Work Short Course.
Although we can only offer a limited number of work experience placements to learners, please contact me if you would like to find out more about opportunities at ASDAN’s Bristol office. You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 954 3976.