Tea making, photocopying, filing… and trying not to get in the way. For many young people this summary typifies a short-term work placement. However, as we enter the peak month of the year for work experience in the worst recession since the Second World War, it is apparent that these opportunities for young people to gain an edge over the competition when it comes to securing a job are more important than ever. It is, therefore, incumbent on employers to maximise the experience for the student, however the employer also has a responsibility to themselves to make the best use of whomever they bring in for work experience. SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Learning, has consulted employers, council members and other experts to compile a series of top tips for businesses on how to maximise the ‘work experience’ experience for both them and the student.


  • Allocate a person who will have specific responsibility for the student
  • Ensure your team knows about the student and the company’s expectations of them
  • Ensure the student knows about your organisation – perhaps even provide an induction similar to that which you would offer new permanent members of staff
  • Ask the student what they hope to achieve during their work experience
  • If you have a training provider work with them to put together a programme of activity
  • Set the student a series of tests, once they prove they can complete a simple task give them something more complex
  • Bear in mind the experiential learning opportunities you can offer the student – not just the work-based ones
  • Learn from students how the company may improve work experience for the following year
  • Provide the school with detailed feedback
  • Don’t forget to check your health & safety procedures and insurance cover to make sure you can legally have a minor on site!


  • Choose a work experience placement which really reflects what you would like to do later in life
  • Do not be embarrassed to ask questions – this is the best way to learn
  • If you think you have been forgotten about or you find yourself at a loose end, speak up
  • Offer to do more than you are asked – demonstrate your ability to do the simple tasks and you will be more likely to be given more complex, more interesting ones
  • If there is a particular element of the business you find interesting, make this known – you will be more likely to be given an opportunity to become involved with it
  • Keep a record of tasks you have performed to use on your CV and future job applications
  • If you are confident you have done a good job and have enjoyed the experience ask about possible paid employment for school holidays
  • Ask for a reference


  • The school has a responsibility to make students aware of the social skills required in the workplace, as well as the qualifications – these may include how to dress, timekeeping etc
  • Try to manage the student’s expectations of what they will and will not get to do during their work experience
  • Help the student with developing their CV and letter of application
  • Work with the student to ascertain what their hopes are and then review these post-placement
  • Liaise closely with the employer prior to the placement to establish what tasks will be given so that the student can be prepared adequately
  • Be clear with the employer what is required from a work experience placement, but be prepared to be flexible
  • Ask the employer, based on the outcome of the work experience placement, what they felt was missing from the student’s education and should be included in the curriculum
  • A named contact at the school/college should be available for the employer and student at all times during the placement

Stephen Studd, Chief Executive of SkillsActive said: “There has been a great deal of discussion about the investment the UK makes in its young people and in the Budget the Government pledged a further £655m for post-16s. This is fantastic but investment in young people is not solely a financial issue. Employers who are willing to invest their time to help develop the talent that will populate UK businesses in the future are just as, if not more, valuable.”