Q6. How does your school ensure that pupils receive relevant experiences of work places to help them to make career decisions?

Why is this important?

Young people often lack an understanding of how workplaces operate. This can hinder their career development and make transition to the labour market more difficult. Any personal work connections that young people have can often be limited but exert a strong influence on them. Young people from households considered to have low socio-economic status are less likely to have experience of workplaces which expose them to professional or managerial roles2.

Having multiple experiences of workplaces helps young people to understand a variety of work roles and the behaviour and employability skills required for work. Not only can young people gain much needed knowledge and understanding, experience of work places can help some young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to develop the networks which their more affluent peers enjoy. This in turn can lead to part-time work, internships and sponsorship that extend aspiration and support transitions.

The Department for Education has produced guidance on work experience for young people aged 16-193 which indicates that all young people on post-16 study programmes should receive work experience as part of their programmes. Further to this, government statutory guidance4 in 2015 indicates that every pupil should have quality first-hand experiences of the work place through work visits, work shadowing, and / or work experience to help their exploration of career opportunities and expand their networks.

Department for Education research5 describes how different schools provide work-related activities and can help schools think through the issues they face in organising their own provision.

Barriers to consider
The processes surrounding work experience need to be managed carefully to ensure that inequalities are addressed and all young people are given opportunities to expand their horizons. Some pupils might face specific challenges, such as not having relevant contacts in job fields they are interested in, or the expectations of peers and family that they pursue a particular career.

A 2016 nationally representative survey of students in years 9-13 in England asked young people specifically about organising work experience6. The most common barriers cited were: (1) didn’t know how to find opportunities, (2) couldn’t find relevant opportunities, (3) school didn’t offer work experience, and (4) didn’t have the right contacts.

What strategic questions should you ask the senior leadership team about providing experiences of work places?

  • What is the school’s approach to providing pupils with direct experience of the work place?
  • What are the barriers which young people in your school face in accessing experiences of workplaces? How are they managed?
  • How are experiences of the work place monitored, reviewed and evaluated?
  • How does the school ensure that it addresses social inequality and supports students without networks to gain meaningful opportunities.

Case study of good practice

At Ermysted’s Grammar School, all learners undertake work experience in Year 10 which is organised by Changing Education, an organisation which schools can commission to organise work experience placements. Year 12 students have a further opportunity to undertake work experience during enrichment week and over 90% of students take this opportunity. The work experience is organised by the school. Visits to work places are also arranged to meet specific career development needs, for example a group of Year 12 students who were interested in engineering were taken on a visit to the Leyland Truck manufacturing plant.

Essential resources to support your school achieve this Benchmark

Resources for governors:
Resources for school leaders and teachers:

Additional resources to support your school to achieve this Benchmark

2 Le Gallais and Hatcher (2014). How School Work Experience Policies Can Widen Student Horizons or Reproduce Social Inequality. London. Education Employers Taskforce
3 DFE (2013). Post-16 work experience as a part of 16 to 19 study programmes Departmental advice for post-16 education and training providers. London. TSO
4 DFE (2015). Careers guidance and inspiration in schools Statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff. London. TSO
5 DFE (2017). Work experience and related activities in schools and colleges Research report. London. TSO.
6 Wellcome (2017). Science Education Tracker. London (https://wellcome.ac.uk/what-we-do/our-work/young-peoples-views-science-education)
7 DFE (2017). Work experience and related activities in schools and colleges Research report. London. TSO.

Other questions in Careers

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