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What you need to know

Setting up work experience might seem initially daunting but it needn't be. Schools, colleges and universities are keen to help their pupils and students close the gap between leaving the classroom and getting a job. Check out our frequently asked questions for more information and get going today.

What is work experience?

Work experience may be defined as: a placement on employer’s premises in which a student carries out a particular task or duty, or a range of tasks or duties, more or less as would an employee, but with the emphasis on the learning aspects of the experience.

What does a work experience placement do?

Everyone on work experience should be given the chance to try various tasks and develop skills that will make them more attractive to prospective employers.

But employers should not rely on those doing work experience to fulfil roles that are necessary for the company and would otherwise be undertaken by a member of staff.

A placement needs to provide the student with the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom; learn about working life and the working environment; meet challenges; and broaden their horizons.

For the student to get the most out of a placement they need to have clearly defined and realistic learning objectives; they should only be expected to undertake activities that help them to achieve those objectives.

How long does a work experience placement last?

In school, work experience usually takes the form of a week of work shadowing with an employer during 4th year.

For a young person, 16+, the length of time spent in a work placement is flexible and can depend on the industry or individual employer.

Some work placements can be once a week throughout a term or longer term block placements undertaken e.g. between one and three months.

Do I need separate insurance?

Employers’ liability insurance now covers work experience students, provided insurers are members of the Association of British Insurers. This can be confirmed with insurance companies.

Do I need to carry out a risk assessment?

Simplified Health and Safety guidance makes it clear that if organisations already employ young people, risk assessments won’t need to be repeated for work experience students.

And employers with fewer than five employees won’t need a written risk assessment.

For more information, visit the Health and Safety Executive’s website and read the guidance on work experience.

Are you interested in offering a work experience placement?

There are a few routes you can take to highlight you would like to offer a work placement to a young person.

  • For schools: WorkIt is a web application which provides pupils, school and local authority coordinators and Health and Safety officers with a single point of enquiry as they plan, prepare and take part in work experience. They work with 21 Local Authorities in Scotland.

  • For schools: Contact the local authority you are interested in working with and speak to the work experience team.
  • Colleges and universities: Most colleges and universities will have a dedicated person helping employers with work placement opportunities. Either contact the college or university of your choice direct or check out their website for more information.

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How to offer a work experience placement

Get started using Marketplace.  This online tool makes it easy for you to connect with schools and colleges.

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