Move work experience to sixth form and spread it throughout the year, says think tank

Work experience should take place in sixth form and beyond and be spread throughout the year, rather than happening through a “one off encounter” at age 14, according to a new report.

Research published today by think tank LKMco and Workfinder – a subsidiary of charity Founders4Schools – said schools, colleges and universities should set up “multiple, varied interactions” between young people and employers until the age of 24.

The report, based on roundtables attended by careers education experts, case studies and interviews with experts, argued work experience is more effective later as pupils can “fully develop and use the skills employers value”.

However, it warned access to the best placements is limited for those from poorer backgrounds, in rural areas or with special educational needs or disabilities.

Will Millard, head of policy advocacy at LKMco, said the report shows that “challenging some deeply entrenched assumptions about work experience […] would be very powerful for young people across the country.”

The report identifies 10 “key actions” schools can take to support effective work experience, including supporting interactions with employers, matching pupils with “appropriately stretching” opportunities and helping them prepare for placements.

It recommends work experience is spread throughout the year, in short-term blocks of one or two weeks and extended placements undertaken one afternoon a week across a term, and suggests pupils go in groups rather than individually, to “boost personal, social and emotional skills”.

In February, a poll revealed that three in five young people believe the education system fails to equip them for the job market, while almost half said better developed work experience would help the system improve.

Government figures released in March 2017 showed that 42 per cent of schools and sixth forms were not offering pupils with special educational needs any kind of “work-related activity”, including a formal work experience placement.

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  1. There was a time when all pupils did work experience within a year of leaving, either near the end of Y10 or at the start of Y11. But that stopped after Gove said schools needn’t offer it.
    Staggered work experience sounds a good idea but for it to be effective it needs to be built into the curriculum with good preparation and effective debriefing preferably with other pupils. Having a small number of pupils out of school at different times makes this less likely and makes supervision more difficult.
    One afternoon a week would be problematic for both employers and schools. It would be likely that pupils would miss the same lessons. Not very helpful leading up to exams.

  2. Dr Deirdre Hughes

    It’s great to see LKMco using the original idea of “100 hours of work experience” from London Ambitions –
    Have a look at this video to see this in action across Islington –
    No mention of professional careers advisers in this report? This is a key feature within their role in other home nations. Schools and colleges need more funds for career education, including work experience.

  3. I’m glad to read read this… Exposure to professional environments and a range of industries needs to be taken more serious by government and businesses.

    Young people are unaware of the different types of careers paths that exist, especially if you are from under privileged homes.

    Schools /colleges and businesses need more support to make work experience effective. this is a vital part of preparing for our futures…

  4. Our organisation, Class Of Your Own, bends over backwards to give our students work experience, but that’s not only out of the classroom, it’s in it too. By the time they get to sixth form, their aspirations are through the roof and work experience is then HUGELY beneficial because their school projects are mirroring industry standards.
    I persuaded leaders of industry, starting with Mott MacDonald’s Chairman, Keith Howells back in 2012, to support my ambition to change the way employers engage with young people. Our ‘Adopt A School’ programme provides unparalleled support for our students, and as such, they demonstrate meta skills and industry knowledge WAY BEYOND THEIR YEARS. However, because we are a small organisation operating in the construction industry that most consider ‘low level’, it goes unnoticed. But we prevail – and why? Because our students deserve it, and they understand the opportunities that architecture, engineering and construction can give them. And so do their teachers.
    I invite anyone who is interested in transformational education (a leading head teacher’s words, not mine) to visit our schools. This is a transferable model…it operates REGARDLESS of politics (and believe me, we’ve seen some politics!).