Work Experience: a student’s guide

Work Experience is typically one or two weeks spent in a workplace undertaking a variety of duties under supervision. Usually you will be asked to complete Work Experience while at High School.

Immersing yourself into a Work Experience placement can be daunting, but work placements are a good way to prepare for leaving full time education. It can be a great insight into the dynamics of a working environment, to discover the type of attributes employers are looking for, and help you to develop and gain transferable work skills. Your work placement employer can be used as a reference when you apply to college, university, or for a job in the future.

It’s a great way to increase your personal skills by interacting with adults in a professional capacity, which you can add to your CV and Personal Statements. Nwes World of Work can offer advice in helping you to source your own Work Experience placement but it’s always best to speak with your coordinators in school too.

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“What an amazing week I’ve had doing work experience at Sizewell B. I met some great people and learned at lot!”

How to find a Work Experience placement:

  1. Do your research. Look at potential careers or job roles that interest you. This will ensure you are keen to learn and will make the most of the work placement.
  2. Think about which subjects you are naturally good at, or those which you enjoy. Research which job roles are available with good grades or degrees in those subjects. This will broaden your horizons on the type of roles available.
  3. Be realistic. Some roles are not suitable for Work Experience as Health & Safety regulations or insurance for those industries may not cover you on site. Some roles may also be off limits as they involve working at height or use of specific specialist equipment, which you won’t have the qualifications to operate.
  4. Start looking for and contacting employers as soon as you are informed of the dates you need to conduct your work placement. This will improve your chances; some employers may get dozens of applicants.
  5. Dress fairly smart and look presentable when approaching employer face to face for the first time. First impressions count!
  6. Lay out application letters and emails professionally. If emailing or writing to an employer ensure you lay out your letter professionally and ensure you include your interests and the reasons you wish to undertake your work placement with that employer.

Things to consider:

  • Discuss placement ideas with your parents or carers. Look at location to ensure you can get there each day and travel costs will not be too high.
  • What benefits will this particular placement give me?
  • Transferable, personal, and specific skills. What skills will I learn from this placement?

Be prepared before you speak to the employer:

  • Have a copy of your CV ready to hand in. Make sure your contact details are listed/
  • Include a Cover Letter. Use it to explain why you want to do work experience with that organisation and what you hope to gain from a Work Placement.
  • Write down some questions to ask. For example, what will the placement involve, what hours I will work, and what clothing is required?
  • Make sure you know the exact dates of your work experience. You’ll need to inform the employer.
  • You’ll need a Student Self-Generated Request Form to be signed and completed by the employer. Your school can supply this.

If a Work Placement isn’t for you, there are other types of Work Experience out there:

Whether helping out at a local dog kennels, charity shop, or working for a local charity – volunteering can help build your skills and experiences of work.

Summer jobs or weekend work
Young people can start work from 14-years-old in the UK. Think about approaching local businesses like hairdressers, convenience stores, or cleaners for weekend or holiday work.

Attending work with someone you know and following their daily tasks and duties within the workplace can give you an insight into the world of work and broaden your view on different types of roles.

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