Kim Clarke is Head of CPSHE and Careers, and Teacher of Religious Studies and Philosophy at King's Rochester. King's Rochester is an independent school providing outstanding education for boys and girls aged 3-18.
At what age can pupils arrange a work experience placement?
Most businesses take on pupils who are 16 or over due to legal requirements. By this age, pupils should be confident enough to talk to clients or customers and are happy to work independently. Younger pupils are able to do 'light work', but need to ensure that any prospective placements meet the requirements stipulated by the Citizens Advice bureau.
How do you advise pupils on the type of placements that they should apply for?
We are really pleased to have our own Jobs Network at King's. Pupils can sign up as an applicant and search for mentors who might have work experience placements available. I normally tell pupils to find something that will give them transferrable skills, such as communication, interpersonal or team-work - with so many highly qualified people in a competitive job market, skills such as these can set an applicant apart.
What's the average duration of a work experience placement?
There is no average - placements can range from a few days to weeks in duration.
How much of an effect do work experience placements have on a pupil's future career?
Work experience is so important, particularly if a pupil wishes to break into the medical or legal industry. Having a placement on CV indicates to prospective employers that the pupil is serious about their career and will put in a great deal of effort if employed. Conversely, work experience could allow a pupil to realise that a prospective career path might not be the one for them!
What advice would you give to a pupil who has been unable to find a placement in the area that they're most interested in?
I would advise them to persevere - competition for placements is fierce. Pupils need to remember that in a tough job market, they are not only competing against people their own age, but also more and more graduates are having to find unpaid internships to get a foot in the door. Pupils also need to remember that future employers are looking for evidence of skills, and not necessarily that a pupil has worked in the same industry, so it might be better to take up an available work experience placement which has little to do with an area of interest, than no placement at all.
What variety of placements do pupils at your school opt for?
Through the Medway Education Business Partnership, pupils have undertaken work experience with local businesses and national firms such as Boots. We've also had students working in accountancy practices, legal chambers and the medical industry.