Work Experience: Impact and Delivery – Insights from the Evidence

This report published by the Education and Employers Taskforce presents findings from recent research, considered by the charity’s 2011 Working Group on Work Experience, on the value of work experience to young people within the contexts of: clarifying career aspirations, getting into university, academic attainment and employment. It also examines the quality of work experience and the opportunities and obstacles it affords both young people and employers.

Read ‘Work Experience: Impact and Delivery – Insights from the Evidence’

Read Dr Anthony Mann’s presentation

Key insights from the research: An overview

Work experience and clarifying career aspirations

Work experience is under-utilised as a means to stretch the career horizons of young people. The problem is that half of placements are found by young people or by their families using largely existing social networks

There is a strong connection between clarity and realism of career aspirations aged 16 and later adult labour market outcomes.

There’s significant correlation between career uncertainty or confusion and NEET status at 16 to 18

Work experience helps determine that a specific career is not for the individual. Allowing return to career exploration at a point when decisions over what qualifications to pursue can still be made

Work experience can be a very effective means of challenging social stereotypes about the realism of occupational ambitions

One size does not fit all. More needs to be known about the relative effectiveness of alternative means of workplace exposure, notably career fairs, workplace visits and job shadowing

Work experience and getting into university

Work experience often plays an important, at times essential, role in determining admission to university courses, but this is not well understood by policy makers

Young people taught in independent schools routinely have access to high quality work experience which is more relevant to university admissions than their state-educated counterparts

Greater attention should be given to enabling pupils within the state sector to access experiences comparable with those enjoyed in the private sector

Further research is needed to understand the extent to which work experience shapes university admissions

Work experience and academic attainment

High proportions of both pupils and teaching staff believe that young people return from work experience more motivated todo well at school

Qualitative evidence from teaching staff suggests that different types of pupils respond in different ways to placements

Many believe that work experience helps borderline pupils to achieve academic targets such as five GCSEs

Lower attaining pupils can gain much from the different learning environment presented by extended work experience

Timing work experience to take place towards the end of Year 10 is unlikely to optimise the attainment benefits of placements

Work experience and employment

Young people strongly believe that the work experience helps to develop their employability skills

Around half of work experience placements are sourced directly by pupils or their families, this does not mean a good fit with the realities of demand in the labour market

An estimated one-quarter of pupils are offered part-time employment following a work experience placement

Work experience undertaken closer to ultimate labour market entry (aged 16 – 18) optimises opportunities for jobs to be secured, but is too late to inform important decisions about post-16 educational and training choices.