Department for Education
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New guidance on work experience published

Work experience guidance for colleges and school sixth forms has been published.

The Department for Education yesterday published advice to colleges and school sixth forms to help ensure all students get the high-quality, relevant work experience needed for good jobs.

The advice is published following the findings of an evaluation of a work experience pilot for 16- to 18-year-olds in 25 further education colleges over the last 2 years.

Professor Alison Wolf recommended in her independent review of vocational education that work experience should be an integral part of programmes of study for all 16- to 19-year-olds, and that the Department for Education should run a pilot to test different approaches to improve the quality and scale of placements offered by providers. The new study programmes came in from this academic year.

The evaluation, also published yesterday, and carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), found that:

  • students were “very positive about the benefits and particularly valued experiencing a real working environment and gaining skills and confidence”
  • the pilot “considerably” improved all participating colleges’ engagement with employers
  • the work experience undertaken prepared students for the world of work, developing teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, and gaining confidence from real-world experience

Today’s guidance says each college and school sixth form should consider either appointing an existing member of staff as a specialist work experience co-ordinator, or recruiting one. The trials found co-ordinators raised the status of work experience in institutions, were a cost-effective way of ensuring work experience became a priority and were vital in developing relationships with employers so they offer placements.

The guidance also says colleges and school sixth forms should:

  • ensure that students who have completed work experience get some form of feedback from employers and also to provide employers with feedback to improve the quality of future placements
  • match students to placement opportunities - by looking at their existing skills, the qualifications they are taking and their possible future career options - and then prepare them fully beforehand
  • be flexible in terms of timing and length of placements - they could be once a week throughout a term, longer block placements, or a rotation of shorter placements at different employers so students can experience different aspects of the sector. This will depend on employers’ capacity and what the student needs to become work-ready

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:

Work experience is vital for young people and employers. It bridges the gap between school, college and work, helps young people make decisions about their future and develop new skills, and gives employers the chance to spot good new recruits. I am sure employers as well as schools and colleges will welcome these changes.

Work experience is such an important factor in young people’s job prospects.

The inclusion of work experience as a necessary part of new study programmes means colleges and school sixth forms have a duty to provide high-quality placements.

The success of the trials and the guidance we are publishing today gives them the opportunity to develop work experience programmes that provide young people with the placements they need.

Professor Alison Wolf said:

Today’s labour market is globalised and highly competitive - high-quality, relevant work experience can make a critical difference to a young person’s chances of getting a good job.

Skills developed in the workplace are rewarded by employers over and above even the skills learned in formal education. Experience of a real workplace is also the best way to discover what you really like doing and where you want to go in life.

It has become increasingly difficult for young people to get this valuable experience. That is why, in my 2011 review of vocational education government, I highlighted the need to develop many more substantial work placements for young people, especially those aged 16 to 18. And it is why I am greatly encouraged by this excellent report and the advice to colleges and schools.

In the summer the government outlined some of the changes that make it easier for employers to offer young people work experience.

As a result of cross-government action:

  • the insurance industry committed to treat work experience students as employees for the purposes of insurance against bodily injury, and confirmed that simply giving work experience opportunities to students will not in itself impact on insurance premiums
  • the Health and Safety Executive issued guidance providing clarity on employers’ obligations with regard to risk assessments - making it clear that if workplace risk has already been assessed with young people in mind, a business does not need to repeat this for each new student
  • the Department for Education and Ofsted published a guide to clarify the health and safety responsibilities for educational establishments organising work experience opportunities

Notes to editors

  1. The Department for Education commissioned NFER to undertake an independent evaluation of the work experience placement trials between May 2012 and July 2013. The guidance published today is available on the department’s website.
  2. Five different models of work experience for 16- to 19-year-olds were tested in 25 colleges (all with a high proportion of students working at level 2 or below and based in areas with high levels of young people NEET), at a cost of £177,000 each over 2 years. On average 3 models were tried by each college.
  3. NFER is the UK’s largest independent provider of research, assessment and information services for education, training and children’s services.
  4. An open ministerial letter to employers can be seen on the Department for Education website.
  5. Download the new Health and Safety Executive guidance.
  6. See the DfE-Ofsted article.
  7. More news and information from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) is available at


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