Work experience

The information given on this page will give you the links to key organisations involved in science, technology, engineering and maths education/business activities.

Tips for organising placements or work experience

Given the potential number of requests that businesses could get (and frequently do) from schools and colleges for work experience or other work-linked activities, it follows that teachers and lecturers planning to contact employers are well advised to contact the relevant education and business linking organisation first.

Doing this will provide information and intelligence – i.e. existing processes and employers committed to providing work placements of one sort or another.

However, in the event that you are being asked to plan work experience, or similar employer based experiences for students, and have to approach employers directly, here is a checklist of things that you might consider.

1. Be aware that planning and arranging work experience is a time consuming process!

2. Look at sites that provide general advice on work experience, including guides for schools and employers (although Education Business Partnerships (EBPs) may well have more recent publications).

3. Ensure that any other staff with responsibility for contacting employers for any reason are aware of your objectives. Whole-school, coordinated schemes, supported by senior management, are likely to be more effective and a better use of staff and employer resources.

4. Make contact with the relevant education and business linking organisations in your area, either to work through them or to make them aware of your objectives. Some EBPs may also be STEMPOINT Contract Holders who have a role to promote science, technology, engineering and maths-related education and business activities.

5. Gather examples of good practice, through leaflets produced by the National Support Group for Work Experience (supported by the DCSF and currently including representatives from EBPs). Explore other national guidance, including that on the Teaching Expertise site.

6. Agree the learning outcomes and think through the kind of experiences that will produce them. This should result in more productive project-based experiences rather than poor quality routine jobs throughout the experience period.

7. Plan supporting documents (EBPs and Careers Scotland will have these already), including pre-briefing and pupil/employer reports.

8. Plan your pitch to employers, including how to deal with issues such as health and safety and equal opportunities. Evidence shows that the vast majority of employers are positive towards the idea of work experience.

Aimhigher Southeast has produced a useful booklet on work experience in the health service including case studies which can be found here.

9. Plan how students will be matched to placements and how you will avoid stereotypical experiences. Learning outcomes should be agreed with employers and with students. Some employers may want to conduct a (mock) selection interview beforehand. This will mean that pupils will need to be encouraged to prepare accordingly. See Applying for courses and work and Getting work experience for student guidance available on this site. You may also find it useful to read Question 6 of the STEM Work Experience Placements Guide (available at the bottom of this page) for more information on equality and diversity, and ideas to help broaden the choices that young people make.

10. Decide what support will be provided to pupils whilst on their placements. Ideally, this will include a mentor available to talk the student through any challenges and to keep them focused on their learning outcomes. If you think a student from an under-represented group might feel isolated in any way, you could request they be paired with a mentor or role model from a similar background.

11. Brief pupils (and parents), making them aware of legal as well as educational parameters. If the briefing is via an event, involving employer representatives may be beneficial at this point.

12. Debrief pupils and employers. Getting students to share their experiences through PowerPoint presentations to each other may be a particularly good way of gaining feedback. This is vital to ensure that individual learning outcomes have been achieved and that practical issues have been dealt with satisfactorily, or if not, remedial action will ensure that the problem is not repeated.

13. Try to get your students to arrange their own work experience placement as that is part of the learning process. 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.

14. Evaluate the scheme and report to appropriate school managers.

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 1, 3, 6 & 10 may be particulary useful to teachers wanting to help their students find appropriate work experience placements. This pack can be downloaded below.

Other useful websites