Croydon Labour Councillor Jamie Audsley is working with young leaders across Croydon on a campaign called First Step Croydon. The campaign aims to improve the availability and quality of work experience placements for young people in their final years at school or at college.
In July, a meeting was held with employers such as Croydon Council, Waitrose, Croydon BID, etc. As a result of this meeting, pledges were received from businesses for 200 work experience placements as well as commitments to offering employability skills. Croydon Council committed itself to offering 50 of these placements.
The next step is to firm up these placements and ensure that they are relevant to the needs of the young people involved. Challenges will include co-ordinating work between schools and businesses to offer placements matched to the skills and aspirations of the young people concerned. It was observed that there should be a wide range of different placements on offer, including opportunities to work in the fields of health, the law, etc.
At a meeting at Shirley Oasis school involving staff and pupils discussion took place on the differing needs of year 10 and year 12 pupils. It was noted that year 10 pupils had difficulty deciding what field(s) of work to opt for, and very often ended up doing basic administration work.
Asked what time of the year was most suited for work experience placements, the school’s Director of Work Related Learning stated that this was not a major issue providing the placement did not clash with exams or preparation for them.
It was agreed that work experience should be of a high quality, with a structured programme, with appropriate preparation beforehand to enable the pupil to derive maximum benefits from the placement and put into practice the soft skills needed to make a good start in the workplace.
The school’s Director of Work Related Learning observed that some employers asked the school to send them “their best pupils” when all pupils needed to have good work experience placements, suited to their abilities.
Characteristics of good work placements
It was agreed that a good provision of work experience placements should have the following characteristics:
- a wide variety of placements (e.g. business, health, law, technical, etc.)
- help for each young person to obtain the right type of placement for his / her needs
- a two-way relationship between schools and businesses
- the option to secure longer stretches of work experience
- good links with local councillors to help develop the provision of work experience further
- some form of online work experience “exchange” where young people can input their post code and area(s) of interest
- an opportunity to claim for travel expenses
- complementing work experience placements with employability workshops
- mock interviews
- a simple checklist to get young people to get the best out of their placements with items such as a discussion with a line manager on the overall work of the section/department/company, discussions with colleagues on their work, observation of the everyday processes in the workplace.
Croydon Council has agreed to pay the expenses for the work experience placements they had pledged to offer.
- A form of online work experience directory would be useful.
- Each secondary school in Croydon should have a designated work experience co-ordinator and that the application process should be carried out by schools.
- The application process should start by completing and providing an “expression of interest” form to the designated work experience co-ordinator.
- A matching up procedure should be set up, which should allocate work experience placements equitably across schools in Croydon
- More employers should be targeted to secure a large pool of work placement opportunities
Note: Having had school students on work placement in my previous jobs I found that the following are keys to success:
- Discussing with the pupil and their supervising teacher what the pupil’s interests are and how they relate to the placement work environment.
- A review visit by the supervising teacher.
- The importance of appreciating that an organisation cannot function effectively without basic administrative tasks being undertaken well.
- The importance of administration in providing structure in the work place.
- Attendance at meetings including asking the pupil for their views on the issues and discussion.
- Discussion on what has been learnt from each task.
- Final meeting with teacher and pupil to evaluate the placement experience.
Practical work by pupils with me included designing a logo for a new voluntary organisation, and musical historical research for a display in a Festival.