Guidelines for departments providing work experience placements

Introduction to work experience placements

Work experience introduces young people to the work environment and can be a valuable part of their education. This guidance gives advice to departments providing work experience placements for young persons at the University. Please note, such placements are organised directly with departments and not centrally through Human Resources.

Placements may be arranged either via the young person’s school or college, or directly with the University (e.g. through a friend or family member).  The guidance will also help departments providing work experience opportunities to adults as the principles are very similar.

Work experience is defined as a placement on university premises where a person carries out a particular task or duty, or a range of tasks or duties, more or less as an employee would, but with an emphasis on the learning aspects of the experience (normally for one or two weeks).

Work experience placements can:

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Organisation of work experience placements

Placements are usually arranged between the school (or agency) and the department providing work placements. For further information please contact or your HR Business Partner. 

It should be the aim of the department to provide a positive introduction to work and an organised timetable/programme for the period of the work placement.

Students on work experience are classed as employees for the period of the placement under the Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 and so covered by the University’s insurance. We recommend that you ensure the student has an official letter of engagement before starting their placement. This letter should also include a confidentiality clause if they are likely to be dealing with work of a sensitive nature.

Students are eligible for work experience if they are in their last two years of compulsory education or taking post-16 courses. Students are typically aged between 15 and 17 years old.

Most placements last between one and two weeks but extended work experience may be requested in some cases.

Students will often have to complete a log of their placement and departments will be asked to provide a summary of the skills and performance of the student which may be used to complement their CV.

Students will need to have their placement confirmed three months before the start date. As placements usually take place during July, confirmation is required at the beginning of April.

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The initial contact is normally a letter from the student requesting a placement. This letter is often a template given to the student to use.

When a placement is arranged, the school will sometimes send a letter thanking the placement provider and giving further information about the student, including any relevant medical or personal information. This is usually done via the school, so do not use the letter to judge the students’ literacy.  The Head of Department will need to sign a form accepting that the department is taking the work experience student.

The department will be required to carry out a risk assessment by law to reduce the possibility of the young person having an accident (see Health and Safety Office work experience guidance). A copy of the risk assessment must be given to the student. The department needs to provide the students’ parents or carers with a copy of the department’s risk assessment or any control measure taken. As part of the department’s risk assessment, consideration will need to be given to whether any Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are necessary (see Safeguarding policy section below).

Prior to the placement starting a meeting may be useful to identify the targets the student hopes to achieve, an explanation of the Work Experience Logbook or any other evidence recording form.

The school carries out an exit interview with the student to assess if targets have been achieved.

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Safeguarding policy

The University aims to adopt the highest possible standards and take all reasonable steps in relation to the safety and welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults. Therefore, all work experience placements must comply with the University’s Safeguarding Policy.

One of the cornerstones of the policy is the need to undertake a risk assessment, which would cover both generic health and safety and safeguarding issues. Please refer to the Health and Safety Office work experience guidance for information on the risk assessment and other relevant health and safety issues

Attention is also drawn to the University’s legal requirements in relation to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). It is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an individual barred by the DBS to work in regulated activity with children (under 18) and adults in vulnerable situations. For working with children, this will generally be unsupervised teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising, on a frequent (one a week or more) or intensive (4 or more days in a 30 day period). In the majority of cases supervision of young people on a short-term work experience placement will not fall within this definition of regulated activity.

If there is a query as to whether a DBS check is required, please contact the Resourcing Team.

Further information about the process for obtaining a DBS check can be found on the University Secretary's web pages

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The young person will have a very limited experience of working. Some may have Saturday or evening jobs but for many this will be their first experience of working – even opening and distributing post can be a new ‘skill’.

It is useful to provide ‘buddy’ for the placement period who will be their supervisor and coach. Check the ‘buddy’ is fully briefed about the student before they are introduced to each other.  In some cases a CRB check may need to be carried out on the ‘buddy’ (see Safeguarding policy).

Prepare a shortened version of your normal induction for staff giving information they need to get started. Your Departmental Induction Coordinator will be able to assist with this.

Encourage the work experience student to ask questions whenever they are in doubt about anything. They may well be shy and reluctant to ask which can lead to mistakes and knock the student’s self-confidence.

Introduce work space, refreshments (do they need to contribute to the tea fund?) and work breaks, toilets, where to put personal items (handbags, coats etc).

Give them a short “job description” of the tasks they will cover during their placement – try and itemise the days they will carry out specific tasks if this is relevant

Assess their knowledge of office tasks (if any) and adjust the “job description” if necessary eg more IT skills than anticipated.

Highlight important information from theHealth and Safety Office work experience guidance especially fire drill, first aid and hazardous areas eg laboratories.

Give them any useful documents:

  • a map of the campus/building if they have to “run errands” from one department to another – give them a short tour around the building if appropriate.
  • A timetable for the shuttle bus
  • A short list of contacts and telephone numbers of people they are likely to have to phone.

Introduce them to the key people so (a) they do not feel isolated and (b) they are known to other staff.

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Unofficial placements

Students often have placements with a department through connections with staff via family or friends. These unofficial placements will not be subject to all of the formal process outlined here. However, it is still essential in these cases that the receiving department complies with the University’s Safeguarding policy.

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