The opportunity to undertake Work Experience as part of the normal course of events in Year 10, is positive for students for many reasons. But I shall limit my discussion to two important ones, particularly for students in Year 10.
First of all, school based Work Experience should always, in my opinion, provide an opportunity for a young person to test a career area of genuine, possible career interest to them.
It is not about doing just anything for the sake of filling in a week. Nor is it, if the young person has a part time job already, doing more of the same. Neither is about working in a family business. They can get that experience any time. It is, as I have indicated above, about testing a career area of genuine, future career interest.
If a young person says they don’t have any idea of what they would like to do after school and their school has a properly trained, qualified and experienced Careers Adviser, the school will offer careers advice and support.
It will likely also offer a career assessment service. The results of a career assessment can help generate occupational ideas for a young person to consider, select and test through Work Experience.
Secondly, Work Experience can help with the choice of subjects for study in Years 11 and 12.
For example, if the experience in the workplace confirms a young person’s career ideas, then senior subject selection becomes easier and much more meaningful. In my last article I suggested four guiding principles in senior subject selection. It will be useful to repeat them here:
- Choose senior subjects that interest you.
- Choose senior subjects at which you do well academically.
- If you have a clear career goal in mind – Engineering, or Law or Architecture for example – choose subjects that will help you make a smooth and successful transition from school to the next study stage.
- If you do not have a clear career goal, then choose your subjects more broadly in the interests of keeping open your options.
In relation to Work Experience, the third and fourth points above are particularly important.
There are still other benefits!
There are other possible benefits associated with Work Experience. Trying out possible post school career ideas can help confirm those ideas. Work Experience may also result in a young person reconsidering something that may have sounded appealing, but when put to the test, is found to be much less so. Both outcomes are valuable.
In the case of the young person whose career ideas are confirmed, the choice of senior subjects is made more relevant and meaningful. It is equally true to say that for the young person who finds him or herself questioning their direction, it is much better to discover this reality in Year 10 and make adjustments, than it is to make the discovery half way through a university or TAFE course!
How does it work?
How it works will vary depending on the school. The best person to ask, and the person best placed to advise on Work Experience, is your school’s Careers Adviser.
In Australia all NSW state government high schools and most private and Catholic schools will offer a Work Experience Program. If your child’s school does not offer Work Experience, ask them why not? They should!
If they say they can’t get the relevant insurance, this is simply not true. They can! All NSW state government high school students are covered under a blanket insurance policy held by the NSW Department of Education. A range of commercially available Work Experience insurance options are available to non-government schools.
There are two main ways in which schools manage Work Experience opportunities.
Block release or Trickle release
The first of these is by block release, where all students undertake Work Experience placements in the same week – or if they’re lucky, perhaps in a two week block with the option of trying a second career area and employer in the second week.
The other option is trickle release.
Under this arrangement, students can choose to undertake Work Experience in any week during school term. Permission to go however, may depend on the chosen week not clashing with major school events, assessment schedules or exam periods.
In government high schools, Work Experience is usually available to students in Year 11 as well, and some students may even choose to go in Year 12. However, because of the demands associated with Year 12 studies, the period would have to be very carefully chosen and is not something I personally would recommend.
The chance to grow and develop ....
Work Experience also provides opportunities for young people to grow their knowledge, grow in confidence, develop their skills and their networks. In so doing, Work Experience provides an opportunity for young people to demonstrate what they can do; to show how capable they are.
The benefits are many and the possibilities for the future are endless. In my view, the opportunity to participate in Work Experience programs is a privilege. It should also be a right – one schools have a responsibility to provide.
I commend the value of Work Experience programs to Year 10 students and their parents and encourage students to help clarify their options for the future by undertaking Work Experience.
Gordon Doyle, Careers Adviser