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September 20, 2018

Work experience: is it valuable or not?

With pupils seeking internships at an earlier age and restrictions on part-time jobs under 16 years - David Adkins, Deputy Head, asks: “Is work experience as a young teenager a marker for future professional success?”

The next generation has been found to increasingly prioritise experiences over material things knowing that future employers will view their online profiles. This has led to a growth in the number of under 16s seeking work experience and internships. However in the past five years there has also been a marked reduction in the number of schoolchildren doing part-time jobs. This may be due to the pressures pupils face when trying to succeed in exams and licensing requirements for employing under 16s.

At Thames we actively encourage our pupils to gain work experience during their holidays which helps them develop skills and learn more about potential careers. Work experience, including internships and part-time jobs, can help pupils to discover what they would enjoy studying in further education or, alternatively, point them down a different career path. It also helps pupils differentiate themselves and stand out in an increasingly competitive world for college, sixth form and university places.

Work experience is also beneficial for young people’s wellbeing. It teaches them to be more outward-looking and develops independence and confidence. It helps them appreciate the value of money and increases their resilience and tolerance levels. Learning basic life skills and aptitudes such as conversing with people on personal topics regardless of their age and background, the importance of being professional, as well as respecting people for the services they provide - is all invaluable grounding.

It is great when a school is able to assist pupils in identifying careers and work experience relevant to them. Providing advice on how to prepare for interviews, research organisations, set up work experience and put together CVs as well as encouraging them to be persistent in finding their dream job stands them in good stead.

One of our Year 11 pupils, Jed received a prize at this year’s Wandsworth Business & Education Succeeding Together awards in recognition of his committed attitude to his work experience last year with his employer Gibilaro Design Ltd. During his time there Jed worked hard and even learned to weld, helping to restore antique fire grates. After his initial work experience he took a summer job there to raise funds for his trip to Tanzania.

Work experience is of significant benefit to pupils and should be encouraged alongside academics. It enables a whole host of life skills helping young people to navigate future career opportunities.

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