We welcome all employers to participate in this National Work Experience programme. Getting involved is easy, free and it supports the development of our future workforce!
Each year, thousands of young students from transition year and the leaving certificate years go on work placements and enjoy the opportunity to not only learn about the world of work and explore possible career options but also to actively develop skills for future enterprise and employability.
These work placements are, for many students, the highlight of their school year where they may have the opportunity to gain a real insight into the challenges and opportunities of work.
Schools and students rely on the willingness of employers to provide work placement opportunities and employers play a pivotal role in the success of these work experience programmes.
The WorkXperience programme provides a framework that encourages best practice in the delivery of work placements. It provides employers with a range of resources that make it easier to manage the daily activities of students, with lots of ideas on activities that can benefit both.
Teachers from schools participating in the programme are encouraged to prepare students appropriately, and are provided with all the resources needed to ensure a rewardingexperience for their students.
Promoting employability in the work place
One of the purposes of a work placement is to enhance the employability of eventual school leavers by providing them with the opportunity to understand and practice what is needed to be successful in the workplace. In preparing students for a work placement, guidance counsellors will have worked with the students to help them understand the different competencies that make someone employable and have provided guidance on how students might improve on these competencies during work experience.
When providing a work placement, an employer should try to embed some of these competencies into their studentís experience by setting employability-based tasks and activities. These are available in the 'Resources' area when you participate in the WorkXperience programme. Where possible, an employer should also provide feedback to the student at the end of their placement as to their performance in these tasks and competencies.
Schools and students understand that due to the limited nature of the placement the tasks assigned may be of a low level and routine in nature. However, it is important to ensure that during their work placement, students have the opportunity to observe as many processes as possible and to interact with staff and customers where feasible. This provides them with the opportunity to develop some of their key personal and employability skills.
Work placements provide many opportunities and benefits to both employers and students. Those most commonly cited by employers are:
- influencing the quality of future employees: employers can help improve the quality and preparedness of young people coming onto the labour market;
- development of recruitment channels: building links with local schools can help to attract school leavers into jobs and can reduce recruitment costs;
- brand awareness: work placements are often formative for students and discussed frequently with peers. A work placement significantly impacts on their awareness of the brand and values of the organisation, which will be shared with others;
- influencing career choices: many employers report that work placements are the ideal way of raising the profile of career opportunities within their organisation and, in some cases, of dispelling unwarranted stereotyped views;
- raising the community profile: many employers attach importance to raising their profile in the community. Work placements provide a valuable means of creating a positive image amongst students, teachers, parents and employees;
- creation of staff development opportunities: the process of policy development, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of work experience programmes gives scope for employees to develop their management and coaching skills, and widen their experience;
- increased motivation of employees: companies participating in education-business link activities have found that such activities increase the motivation of their employees;
- understanding changes in the education system: closer liaison with schools helps employers to improve their understanding of modern learning processes and current educational qualifications, and enhances their relationship with teachers.
- monetary: students may provide fresh perspectives, as well as providing an additional resource.
A supervisor/line manager should be allocated to the placement for the duration of the programme. This person is key to the successful completion of the placement, and enthusiasm and flexibility is essential. It is important also that other members of staff are informed of the placement and facilitate the student where appropriate. It is important that suitable tasks for the student are identified before the placement begins and that these are worked into a timetable. A tour of the workplace is highly valuable, as it shows the different elements of the business and can provide context for their particular position.
How Programmes Operate
Schools and FET colleges have adopted a variety of different approaches when organising work experience programmes. For example:
- Applications - some schools/colleges encourage students to find their own work placement while others have developed partnerships with local employers. It may be the guidance counsellor or another teacher who assigns students to the various placements available. If, as an employer you feel you can offer a student a placement, contact the guidance counsellor of a school or college in your local area.
- Paperwork - whether the school/college or student organises the work experience, the facilitating employer will normally be required to complete a form confirming the availability, nature and dates of work experience.
- Insurance - Both school and college students are insured by their schools' or colleges' insurers. Each child generally has a personal accident insurance organised by their school/college. Community and Comprehensive Schools have a State Indemnity for all school activities. Employers will normally be given a document containing the relevant school's insurance details, which should be filed for reference. Check for exclusions for certain types of work.
- Format - will depend on the school programme the student is participating in. Leaving Cert Vocational (LCVP) students will require a one week block of work. Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) students normally require a two week period. Transition year (TY) will sometimes require a one week period, sometines they operate a day release system spanning many weeks. FET students may have to achieve a set number of hours (e.g. 40 hrs) for their programme.
- Payment - the employer is not required to make any payment to the student during work experience.
- Monitoring - as part of the monitoring process, the student's teacher may on occasion request to visit the student at the employer's premises during the work experience.
- Recording - during the course of the work experience, a student will normally be required to maintain some type of record/diary of his/her experiences so that they can reflect on the learning points when they return to school/college.
- Feedback - on completion of the work experience, the employer would normally be requested to provide feedback to the student on their performance and there would normally be a short feedback form to be completed and returned to the school/college.
Health and Safety Concerns
While a school continues to have responsibility for students on work experience, the employer has the same responsibilities for their health, safety and welfare whilst the student is on an employer's premises. As most students undertaking work experience will be under the age of 18 years and in some cases, may be under 16 years, employers facilitating work experience should review the relevant sections of the ' Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996' to ensure compliance.
In general, the Act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16. However, employers can take on 14 and 15 year olds as part of an approved work experience or education programme where the work is not harmful to their safety, health, or development. There are also some limitations around working hours, rest breaks, night time work etc. which apply to those 17 yrs and under.
In taking steps to ensure the safety of students while on work experiences an employer should:
- Assess the Risks - in advance of any work experience student starting, identify any risks associated with the placement and minimise these were possible. Take into account that these young people are likely to be inexperienced, unaware of health and safety risks and physically or mentally immature. They should not be required to operate any hazardous machinery or work in hazardous environments as their short placements would not allow sufficient training.
- Appropriate supervision - young people will be facing unfamiliar risks from the job they will be doing and from their surroundings and are therefore likely to need more supervision than adults. Good supervision will also help you to get a clear idea of their progress in the job and to monitor the effectiveness of their training.
Induction - ensure any initial briefing/training that the student receives on
commencing their work experience covers the important elements of your health and safety
- identifying any risks associated with their work experience or their presence on your premises
- ensuring that the students receive appropriate instructions about the tasks they are to perform and company safety regulations including the wearing of protective clothing or equipment.
- advice on systems for dealing with accidents and emergencies.
If the student is absent for any part of the placement or any incident or accident occurs, you should immediately notify the career guidance counsellor or co-ordinating teacher in the school.
At the initial commencement/induction meeting with the work experience student, it is important for an employer to explain what is meant by 'employability' and the importance of certain skills in the workplace. Alongside the daily work and routines that the student will experience, it is useful to encourage students to observe and set personal objectives with regard to the many 'soft skills' that provide the backdrop to the work being undertaken.
Note: School students can record their personal objectives in their WorkXperience Diary and Workbook which forms an optional part of the WorkXperience programme.
If undertaken, outline how you will assess the student in relation to these competencies on the completion of their work experience. A sample Skills Evaluation Form is provided in the 'Resources' section available when you are registered on the programme.
Employability skills can be broken down under three main areas of competence, namely People Skills, Task Skills and Personal Skills. Some examples of each are provided below along with some examples of tasks which would assist in developing and assessing these competencies:
- People Skills:
- Active Listening - Watch to see if full attention is being given to what other people are saying, if they take the time to understand the points being made, ask questions as needed and refrain from interrupting inappropriately.
- Team Membership - If possible, assign some of the students to join in on group work and encourage participation where appropriate.
- Respect - encourage interaction with people from diverse backgrounds and different levels of authority within the organisation. Do they take the feelings, needs, thoughts, wishes and preferences of others (including other cultures and races) into consideration, and give them worth and value?
- Task Skills:
- Time Management - offer opportunities to manage their time efficiently. e.g. punctual clocking in/out, achieve tasks on time, allocate appropriate time to record information and finish what is started.
- Computer Skills - encourage the use of a computer to write and print documents, and use email programs. Provide basic training on any in-house computer systems. Encourage them to prepare a report on their placement, or conduct some internet based research, etc.
- Customer Focus - If appropriate, allow the student to engage with customers and learn how to develop an understanding and concern for customer's needs.
- Independence - allow the student to perform tasks with minimum help or approval, or without direct supervision.
- Learning - provide some work related training and opportunities to learn. Watch for an interest in personal learning and development. Encourage questioning and assertiveness.
- Dependability - offer tasks that require a degree of responsibility.
For a comprehensive list of the employability skills used on the WorkXperience programme, click here