Looking for a Placement?
If you or your son/daughter are looking for Work Experience, here are some useful tips and links. Bear in mind that there are several types of “Work Experience”, including placements linked to a study-programme courses like BTECs and T-Levels, traineeships, internships, volunteering and apprenticeships.
However, most people think of “Work Experience” as being the 5-day or 10-day placements for Year 10 or Year 12 pupils. The most important thing is that YOU are clear about what kind of Work Experience you want.
Deciding where to gain experience
The first question to ask yourself is what kind of work interests you?
You may know the sector (e.g. hospitality, IT, finance) or the role (e.g. chef, developer, accountant) that interests you, or you may not - don’t worry if you don’t know yet!
You're not sure what you want to do
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly in what sector or role you want to work in the future. Work Experience in any organisation will be valuable, as it will show future employers that you have skills that are useful in any job. These are commonly known as “soft” or “transferable” skills, but they are very important; examples are time management, team work, communication, initiative etc. These are skills that employers are very keen to see in all staff, so don’t feel that you have to get experience in a particular sector or company.
It’s getting experience of a professional workplace that is most important. So the choice is wide and the world is your oyster!
You know the sector / role that interests you
If you know the sector in which you want to work, but don’t know much about any companies in that sector, talk to people! If you’re currently at school or college, your careers advisor would be a great place to start. Also, family or friends may have connections in a company in a relevant sector who might be able to advise you on your best next steps. Don’t be afraid to ask. And of course, there’s a wealth of information on the internet. Look for companies in your area, including search terms like “work experience”, “early careers”, “industry placement” etc.
If you’re interested in a career in a particular sector (like IT, accountancy, Human Resource Management, social media etc.) you don’t need to limit your search for Work Experience to a company working only in that sector. Many large companies have individual departments which deal with IT, finance, HR, communications/social media, logistics, catering, horticulture, estate management etc. So think laterally, as you may be able to get the specific Work Experience you want in a department in an organisation.
Also remember that you don’t need to limit yourself to the private sector; you can get great Work Experience in a wide range of organisations in the charity or community sector, and also in the public sector - for example, your local council or an NHS Trust. Councils have many departments and there are more than 350 job roles in the NHS.
You want to get Work Experience with a specific company
If you do have a specific organisation in mind, check out its website and look for the “careers” or “join us” page to find details of any Work Experience programme it offers. Also keep an eye on the company’s Twitter and LinkedIn postings for any messages about Work Experience opportunities.
There are usually many more people asking for Work Experience than placements available, so don’t be disheartened if you’re not accepted by that one company. Try other companies in the same line of business, search whether there are voluntary sector organisations or social enterprises operating in the same field – and don’t forget that a department in another organisation might offer what you’re looking for. Just don’t give up!
How to find a company offering Work Experience and how to apply
If you’re currently at school or college, your careers advisor would be a great place to start the search for companies offering Work Experience. Also, family or friends may be able to advise you on suitable companies in your area. And of course, there’s a wealth of information on the internet. Look for companies in your area, including search terms like “work experience”, “early careers”, “industry placement” etc.
Start early, as many companies arrange their placements months in advance.
Some companies will ask you to fill in an application form, or send your CV or record a video application, and you may be asked to take part in a telephone or a face-to-face interview. You can get advice from numerous sites if you search the net for "how to apply for work experience” or similar.
If a company’s website doesn’t specifically mention Work Experience, don’t give up. Try ringing or emailing the company’s Human Resources (HR) department or recruitment team to ask if you could spend some time with them on Work Experience. You should include this information in your enquiry:
Your name, school /college (if appropriate) and age
Why you are interested in the company or sector
What skills you have, and any qualifications
What skills you would like to develop
Any previous experience, part time work, volunteering etc.
What dates you would be available for a placement
Which branch you could travel to (if the company has more than one site)
If you prefer to call rather than email, prepare well to make sure that you can give the answers straight away to all the questions above.
You might not get any response from some of the companies you approach and you will probably get a fair number of companies saying that they have nothing available. Just don’t give up. Remember that literally millions of people have managed to get Work Experience placements and they almost certainly had to persevere.
Here are some links to help you find Work Experience
Organisations who are accredited with Fair Train’s Work Experience Quality Standard can be found here and you can search by county. Any organisation marked as an Employer offers high quality Work Experience placements (but not always of every type) and our accredited Facilitator organisations may also be able to help you find a placement.
http://www.workfinder.com allows you to search for placements near you.
You could also contact your local Education Business Partnership (EBP) as these often organise work experience placements. Many can be found here but you can search online for an EBP near you.
Similarly, your local Chamber of Commerce may have a work experience programme here and the Careers and Enterprise Company has a list of providers that includes organisations that arrange work experience. Search here.
If you live in a housing association property, contact the housing association itself as many offer employment support for residents, including Work Experience
Once you have got your Work Experience agreed, make sure you know (and preferably have sent to you in writing):
The dates and times of your placement
What to wear
What time to arrive and who to ask for when you get there
What are the arrangements for lunch (bring your own, canteen, etc.)
The name and contact details of whoever will be supervising you
Who to call if you are ill and can’t make it (your supervisor and/or your school/college)
And don’t forget to be absolutely sure of how you’re going to get to and from the company!
During your Work Experience Placement
The employer who is providing you with the Work Experience opportunity and (if relevant) your school/college will hopefully have prepared carefully for your placement. They will guide you through what you need to know, what you will be doing, who will be looking after you and who your key contacts in the organisation are.
They’ll also tell you if there are any rules you’ll need to observe, like use of phone, social media postings etc. If they don’t mention that, ask!
It’s important that you know whom to speak to if you’re unsure about something, or if anything is troubling you (for example, if you’re worried about your or other people’s safety or wellbeing) – and most important of all is that you ENJOY yourself and really take full advantage of this opportunity to learn.
We recommend you keep a “logbook” or diary, digital or hard copy, while you are at your placement. Record what you’ve done and learned every day, and any questions you want to ask. This will help you when you are applying for future placements, courses or jobs. Hopefully, however, the employer or your school/college will have provided this logbook/diary.
If your placement makes you realise that you don’t, after all, want to work in the business, job or sector you thought you did, don’t panic! That’s actually a very positive thing to know, as it stops you wasting time pursuing that career – and the “soft” or transferable” skills we referred to earlier, and which you’ll be learning anyway, will be valuable in any career.
After your Work Experience Placement
Thank your supervisor for their support, and anyone else who has helped you, and ask if you can keep in touch. Companies often advertise job openings or other placements to students who’ve impressed them in the past. We recommend using LinkedIn to connect with the organisation to keep up to date with their news and opportunities. You can set up a profile here.
Write down the skills you have learned and developed, and don’t forget the transferable skills as well as any new technical skills. Write down examples of how you’ve used these skills. This will help you in applications for future opportunities.
Good luck! And don’t forget that some of the most successful people in the world say that they owe a great deal to what they learnt doing Work Experience.