Work placements – preparing for implementation

30 June 2017 Hannah Stanwix

Experience of work is a key element of current 16-19 study programmes in England. The Sainsbury Review recommended that young people on technical routes undertake an extended work placement related to their field of study and lasting up to three months. This year, Gatsby and six college leaders visited other European countries to learn how placements are established there. This learning has contributed to the Department for Education’s research of work placement good practice both across England and elsewhere.

Work placements – preparing for implementation

An engineering student that we met during our visit to the Centre Professionnel du Nord Vaudois (CPNV), Switzerland. Image courtesy of CPNV.

Currently, students participating on some programmes in England, childcare for example, spend a substantial period on placement relevant to their field of study. Other students have opportunities for short periods of work experience, lasting a few days or weeks, which may not be in a setting related to their course. This type of work experience supports, for example, work-readiness and careers education, information, advice, and guidance (CEIAG).

Extended work placements contribute to the development of a student’s specific technical knowledge and skills, whilst also building their general work-readiness. In international systems work placements commonly form part of college-based technical education.

Gatsby, accompanied by college leaders and staff from DFE, has undertaken study visits to explore how work placements are structured in six technical education systems -  Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland - and to identify key factors that could be replicated in England.  We met with a variety of stakeholders, including government officials responsible for technical education, colleges, employers and students on placements, and social partners such as employer organisations and unions.  A different senior leader from a FE college in England joined each visit, giving insight into how these enabling factors might be fostered in practice. We are currently preparing a report of our findings for publication in early autumn.  

Looking closer to home, we have commissioned the University of Derby to carry out a short piece of research into the current provision of work placements in England for four of the 15 technical route areas – Construction, Childcare & Education, Engineering & Manufacturing, and Creative & Design. The aim of this work is to describe how learning takes place on these placements, and what lessons can be learned.