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Work Experience – the Students’ Perspective

This article is one in a series marking Work Experience Week, FairTrain’s annual campaign to celebrate and raise awareness about the benefits of work experience.

A work experience student cares for a visitor to the Alsen Day CentreEvery year, Inspire! are commissioned to source, coordinate and support around 4,000 work experience placements. We help students from schools and colleges across Hackney, Camden and Islington get their first taste of the working world – whether in a bike repair shop or a Magic Circle law firm, we believe that work experience offers young people invaluable opportunities to build their skills and prepare for the future.

Students agree: in a recent survey, 95% of young people placed by our team agreed that work experience improved their understanding of the skills and qualities employers are looking for. “I think I’ve learnt a variety of skills relevant to what I want to do in the future,” said one student, a Year 13 from Clapton Girls’ Academy who was placed on a local hospital’s geriatric ward. “I’ve developed great, effective communication skills through working with different professionals as well as the service users.”

City & Islington College student, placed by Inspire! in a dental surgery, also said that work experience helped boost their skills in a range of areas. “I have learnt that you need to be confident and to project your voice, which helped my communications skills. I worked on reception and with some of the patients and their money, so it helped with my numerical skills. Listening to the manager and co-workers gave me a chance to be respectful and kind. I also did some work on the computer which improved my IT skills.”

For some students, the biggest takeaway from their placements was the opportunity to explore their future career prospects. “My work experience helped me to think about my future and what I want to do in university,” said one student, placed by us in a local nursery.

One student from Westminster Kingsway College told us that “this experience helped me to make a definite decision in pursuing my dream career”, while another, a Year 12 from the Bridge Academy, said their placement sparked an interest in a completely new field: “work experience helped me gain a key insight into a new field of media. I was not interested in it until I encountered it and it opened my eyes to more options for my future. It made me question my next step in education more than ever.”

Stories like these show how important work experience can be for young people and their career prospects. At Inspire! we make use of our extensive network of employer partners to find relevant, worthwhile placements for students – we undertake health and safety assessments, brief and support employers and prepare job descriptions so that young people understand their responsibilities and know they won’t be left doing busy work or tea runs. We also work hard to provide flexible, bespoke options for young people with additional needs, so that no-one misses out on the benefits work experience can bring.

To find out more about our work experience programme in Hackney, Camden and Islington, contact us.