How work experience benefits students – and how Unifrog's Placements tool can help
30th August 2023
Taking up a placement (aka work experience, or WEX) can be a life-changing process for students, helping to shape their future pathways.
Placements give students a glimpse of what their day-to-day lives might look like when they leave school. At the same time, they inspire and motivate them to explore their next steps.
Research from the Education and Employers Taskforce shows that when students have multiple encounters with employers whilst at school, they are 86% less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment, or training) once they have left.
And, once they start working, they’re more likely to get more out of it if they’ve made that initial contact with employers at school. The Education and Employers Taskforce also found that students who have four or more meaningful encounters with employers can earn 22% more during their career.
Teachers and careers advisers are seeing the benefits; Unifrog’s Placement tool, for example, has facilitated over 80,000 placements in the first year of its launch. This includes over 12,000 placements for students from disadvantaged backgrounds (students in Index of Multiple Deprivation deciles 1-3).
So why else are placements so important for students to take up?
How do placements benefit students?
1. Grow their skills and confidence
Placements are a quick and powerful way for students to build on the skills they’ve learned inside and outside of the classroom. They might be playing a part in a team, where they’ll need to pick up a task quickly and use their initiative. They could be learning how to use new software, or helping to organise an event or series of calendar appointments.
Placements also grow students’ confidence, helping them to quickly adapt to working with new people and in new environments.
On Unifrog’s Placements tool, students complete a reflection form after their placement, where they’ll think about what they’ve learned and what they’re most proud of. This will help them recognise and name the skills they’ve learned – and instil pride and confidence in their next steps.
2. Strengthen students’ applications
By taking part in placements, students not only gain the skills and knowledge to catapult them into work – through the experience alone, they’ll make better applications.
A CV or application that includes evidence of a work placement is impressive, as it shows the student’s commitment to growth and learning. And if they can show how it’s relevant to their future career, it will also show dedication to their next step.
On the Placements tool, employers leave a review where they can feed back on things like a student’s communication, teamwork, strongest skill, and what they could work on to be even better in their next workplace. Students can read this afterwards and use these insights to strengthen their applications.
3. Prepare them for the world of work
On a placement, a student may be working with people of ages and backgrounds they’ve never connected with before. They’ll get a sense of what’s expected at work, from turning up on time and communicating promptly, to what’s appropriate to wear and what a longer day than they’re used to might look like.
Students start the Placements tool process by completing the student initial form – this is their responsibility. This then kick starts the process for the employer to complete their first form, but if they don’t hear back, students are expected to follow up – getting them quickly familiar with professional communication styles.
4. Help students figure out their next steps
Maybe your student took up work experience in a cafe and realised they love customer service. Or maybe they worked on a construction site and discovered the noise wasn’t for them. Placements help your students figure out what they like and dislike in a work environment – drastically reducing their chances of becoming NEET, as mentioned above.
By completing their reflection form, students are showing you whether the placement was a positive experience for them and how it shaped their next steps. You can then use this to direct your careers provision – for example, if they didn’t enjoy their experience, you might want to try out Unifrog’s Work environments quiz to help direct your students’ focus to environments they prefer. Or if they did, you could start to use Unifrog’s Careers library to help students research roles in that sector.
5. Get them—and you!—networking
Once your students have completed their placements, encourage them to follow up with their placement lead to say thanks and express interest in future opportunities if they enjoyed it. This way, they’ve made a professional connection, and they’ve had more practice at sending a professional email. This will give them more confidence to reach out to other employers when the time comes.
Once you’ve started using the Placements tool, you’ll be able to access all your placements contacts on your Manage page. Here, you can filter by whether the employer would consider doing a placement again, and download all of their contact details to share with your next cohort of placement students.
What is the Placements tool?
Unifrog's Placements tool puts all things work experience in one place, providing an easy tracking process for students, employers, parents, and teachers.
The tool is a series of forms that are easy for teachers, students, and employers to complete. Once one form is completed, this triggers the process for the next one to be sent, saving you hours of admin and email chasing.
You’ll have an overview of the whole process – making it easier to demonstrate this aspect of your careers provision in an Ofsted inspection.Want to know more?
We're hosting a World of Work Conference in Birmingham on Thursday 19 October for teachers and advisers to get familiar with work experience, apprenticeships, and Unifrog's Placements tool. Book your place here.