Research finds that periods of work experience have a positive impact on young people’s soft employability skills and confidence.

Work experience placements provide students with better understanding of the world of work, while enhancing communication and interpersonal skills. This is according to the results of a survey of upper secondary education staff conducted by NatCen Social Research, combined with school and college case studies, in 2017.

Placements, as well as careers events and mock interviews, allow students to try skills learned at schools or in colleges in a practical setting in addition to informing future career choices.

Following updated guidance from 2015 that advocates a period of work experience, or an extended work placement, as a core part of study programmes, most school and college students in years 10-13 (EQF levels 3 and 4) take part in work-related activities in England. Most providers also offer opportunities for students with special educational needs and/or disabilities to participate. Work experience placements typically last between 8 and 12 days depending on the student’s age and study programme, but internships of around 30 days also feature.

It is reported that work experience placements function most effectively when they are integrated into the curriculum or form part of a planned programme of work-related activities and when delivery is coordinated by school or college staff. Providers attempt to find placements that match students’ career aspirations where possible, which requires good relationships with employers. Some sectors, such as engineering and health, prove more difficult for work experience due to health and safety and patient confidentiality and safeguarding issues.

Poor planning and a lack of preparation by students were associated with a lack of student engagement and negative attitudes, as were a limited range of activities for students to undertake.

The infographic below is extracted from the research report and demonstrates good practice in the delivery of work related activities.


Read full report: Work experience and related activities in schools and colleges - research report