Work experience

Families and carers can support young people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) placements by encouraging them to think about how they might use science, technology, engineering and maths in the world of work. This may be in jobs and careers specifically linked to those subjects or more loosely in careers from them. This may involve some creative thinking and the other pages for parents on Future Morph can help generate some ideas.

Schools and colleges organise work placements in a variety of ways but there is usually someone nominated as the ‘work experience co-ordinator’ who has a register of placements that may be used. Some schools and colleges ask parents and carers to help their child to find a placement and this can be daunting.

As a first step, you can check if your child’s school is doing something to prepare learners for forthcoming placements. The amount of preparation offered by schools varies and it may well be that a work experience co-ordinator, form tutor or other staff are already helping learners to anticipate how they might relate their work experience to the subjects they are studying.

You could encourage your son/daughter to use the Future Morph and the Maths Careers websites to get some ideas about how STEM relates to different careers – including those containing elements of STEM subjects, even if they do not form the main focus of the job. There is a section on the site for parents and your daughter/son might like to use the 11-13, 14-16 or 16+ sections to get some information. As part of the STEM Subject Choice and Careers project a leaflet has been produced for parents entitled ‘Explore the Possibilities,’ which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Be prepared

You may have a local work experience organisation (details will be available from the school) that will have helpful information and tips on its website too so it is worth investigating this option. Generally, any support you can give your child with preparing will help so that they:

  • know what they are looking for
  • ask the right questions
  • find out about the business and how it makes money
  • consider the things they are good at
  • discover what they would want to avoid in a job

Some schools expect learners to find their own placements and you may be involved in this process.

You could approach this in a number of ways, thinking about jobs directly linked to STEM and those where STEM is useful. A good place to start finding out more is to explore the Future Morph website. Work experience placements linked to STEM are not always obvious to spot. You will need to think about the types of employers in your area that might have some of the jobs mentioned on this site.

You can also use the jobs and work experience section on the Prospects website. You may find useful links to professional bodies, trade associations and other national networks that may be able to help you find a placement.

Useful contacts and links

Think about whether you have any contacts through your friends, children’s friends’ parents or other people you have met and ask if they can help set up a placement. Check if the school has any existing contacts with potential organisations, such as the hospital or health authority. This could be through a subject teacher or through someone with responsibility for work related learning such as a careers co-ordinator or a work related learning co-ordinator.

If none of the above produces any contact names, you can write to or phone the companies and organisations directly.

Ask for the person who deals with work experience or schools links. If that does not work, you could ask for someone in Human Resources or in the Schools Liaison Team. Make sure you are prepared so that you know what sort of experience you are seeking and the dates.

The full experience

It is best if your son/daughter rings or writes as that is part of the learning process around work experience that could be the next stage. Most schools have a list of possible placements by category and in the local area, so if you cannot find something yourself you could go back to your son/daughter’s school and ask for help. Girls are under-represented in some science sectors. To obtain more information on what is available to promote the entry of girls into science visit the Equality and Diversity Toolkit.

The temptation for lots of families is to take their son/daughter to their own place of work. Whilst it is understandable as this is both a practical and safe option, it is worth bearing in mind that you may be able to offer this in addition to the school work experience. The school will have health and safety procedures which will help ensure your child’s safety at work. You could encourage your son/daughter to try something new rather than go for the convenient option of taking them with you.

Work Experience Placements Pack

STEM Work Experience Placement guides have been produced by the Centre for Science Education at Sheffield Hallam University. These guides are aimed at STEM subject teachers, careers co-ordinators, work experience organisers, employers, parents and young people to assist them in finding appropriate placements for young people in STEM-related disciplines. This pack explores the issues relating to good quality placements and signposts a wide variety of resources to support this. Questions 2, 5 & 11 may be particularly useful to parents on how to find placements. This pack can be downloaded below.