Work Experience - Guidance for Managers

1. Background

1.1. Introduction

Work experience placements have been a regular feature in a number of departments, and are an important way for the University to establish links with local schools and young people within the community. Placements are beneficial to the students and young people taking part as part of their broader education and development, and to promote the University as a potential employer across the city and the region.

These notes are intended to provide Heads of Departments or other managers who may be involved in organising work experience placements with the necessary guidance to ensure that the conduct of the placement is both compliant with current legislation, and of maximum benefit to all involved.

For Student placements, a more detailed guidance document is available from the Department for Education entitled – `Work Experience: a guide for employers´.

For placements for Young Jobseekers, a more detailed guidance document is available from the Department for Work and Pensions and Job Centre Plus entitled – `Could you offer voluntary work experience?'

1.2. What Constitutes Work Experience?

Work experience may be defined as: a placement on University premises in which a student or young person carries out a particular task, duty or range of activities more or less as would an employee, but with a greater emphasis being placed on the learning aspects of the experience.

Activities should be `hands-on´ where possible, and as such are distinct from job-shadowing which is primarily an observational activity.

1.3. How Does The University Benefit?

Work experience is beneficial to students, young jobseekers and employers.

Some of the benefits that can be derived are:

  • Influence the quality and career choices of future employees
  • Development of recruitment channels
  • Promotion of vocational skills and qualifications
  • Raising the profile of the University as an employer
  • Management development opportunities for those staff involved in planning and conducting placements

1.4. Legal Framework in relation to Students

Work experience is governed by the Education Act 1996, as amended by the Schools Standards & Framework Act 1998. The main features of this are:

  • Only students in their last 2 years of compulsory schooling, or students taking post-16 courses are eligible.
  • Placements occur on the employer’s premises; and
  • Pre-16 placements generally will last for 2 weeks, but post-16 placements can be more varied in length.

The guidance provided in these pages is fully compliant with the relevant legislation and developed from guidance supplied by the Department for Education (www.education.gov.uk/) and as such represents good practice.

1.5. Getting Started

It is likely that the majority of placements will result from a request being received either from individual students or young jobseekers or from local schools, colleges or job centres, in which case these notes provide guidance on how to proceed.

Alternatively if a Department wishes to offer placements they should first contact:

For Students: Business and Education South Yorkshire (B&ESY) who manage work experience locally on behalf of LSC. B&ESY will be able to identify suitable local schools or colleges and initiate contact www.be-sy.co.uk/

For Young Jobseekers: Job Centre Plus Group Partnership Manager, Dave Wright, 0191 211 4206 or Dave.wright1@jobcentreplus.gsi.gov.uk

2. Ensuring Quality Placements

2.1. If work experience is to be successful then the following areas need to be fully considered:

  • Aims and objectives
  • Planning
  • Preparation and briefing
  • Induction
  • Debriefing and evaluation

2.2. Aims and Objectives

Clear reasons for conducting the placement should be established, and should result from discussion with the student´s school or college or young jobseeker and/or the job centre, prior to the detailed planning taking place. The aim may be specific to the work being undertaken such as gaining experience of basic accounting procedures, or generic, for example to gain experience of working in an office environment. Once the aim of the placement has been established then wherever possible objectives should be identified in conjunction with the school or college, young jobseeker and/or job centre. By taking this approach it is then possible to assess the success of the placement and the performance of the student or young jobseeker.

2.3. Planning

Planning and preparation should begin well in advance and all relevant details should be confirmed prior to the start of the placement. Ideally a written placement plan document should be produced and distributed to all involved, in the case of students including the student´s school/college and parents. Details to be included in the plan should include:

  • Dates and duration
  • Location and hours of work
  • Duties and responsibilities of the post and other activities to be conducted
  • Dress and conduct
  • Arrangement for transport and meals*
  • Employers liability and Public Liability insurance*
  • Significant risks and control measures*
  • Mid-placement visit by school/college (if applicable).
  • Telephone contact details and nominated point of contact at workplace and school/college (if applicable).

* More detail provided below.

The duties and responsibilities of the post to be undertaken should be linked directly to the aim and objectives of the placement. In order to achieve this it may be necessary for the student or young jobseeker to spend time in more than one role during the period of their placement.

2.4. Preparation and Briefing

Before beginning the placement the student or young jobseeker will require proper preparation and briefing. Much of this will be done by the school/college or job centre, but if possible should also involve some input from the Department providing the placement. This may be in written form (including the placement plan document), or may include a visit by a representative from the school/college or by the young jobseeker themselves, to the location where the placement will take place.

2.5. Induction

As for all employees there should be a thorough induction process. This is of particular importance for work experience placements where legislation requires that special attention is paid to Health and Safety, and also because for the student, the experience of being in the workplace will likely be a new one. This may mean that on short placements a considerable amount of the available time will be spent on briefings, introductions and familiarisation, but this should be accepted as necessary to ensure the success of the placement as a whole.

A useful guide to the subjects that should be covered is the Managers' Toolkit for induction of University staff. Clearly this will need to be tailored for the specific role to be undertaken, and those administrative areas such as pay arrangements and parking permits will not be relevant. 

2.6. Debriefing and Evaluation

Depending upon how the placement was initiated it is possible that there will be a set framework for debriefing and evaluation. Some schools or colleges may have templates for written reports, or may request general feedback by way of a letter from the University. Placements set up through B&ESY may have been provided with report books which have a section for input from the workplace supervisor or manager. From the student´s perspective the report is likely to be placed into their Record of Achievement/Progress File – a nationally recognised document. Whatever the arrangements in place, the placement should be assessed against the objectives set and should assess to what extent they were met.

There is also a need to carry out an internal evaluation to identify how future placements could be improved. Consideration should also be given to any costs that have been incurred, and any benefits gained.

Departments conducting placements should complete and return the Work Experience Internal Feedback Form, and return to their Faculty HR Team contact. The comments included on the forms will be invaluable in creating a learning-log which can be used in the planning of future placements.

3. Organisational Concerns

When undertaking to provide a work experience placement there are a number of areas which must be considered, many of which, will have already been covered by the planning process.

3.1. Hours of Work

Work experience placements are subject to the same legislation as employees where working hours are concerned so should be treated equally. They should not work more than 8 hours a day and should not work more than 5 days out of 7. Clearly these are maximum figures and in relation to student placements, provided that the school/college is in agreement they may be permitted to work fewer hours than the workplace would expect of an employee.

3.2. Payments

Work experience placements are an educational and developmental activity and should not be paid for any work performed, whether to the student, young jobseeker, school/college or LEA.

Students: Where a student would be in receipt of some form of income support then the school/college or LEA may decide to make payments to cover the cost of transport and meals. A department may elect to meet some or all of a student's out of pocket expenses, but this is not a requirement.

Young Jobseekers: The Department for Work and Pensions will continue to pay participants’ benefits and if required also cover the costs of travel and childcare. Departments are not expected to pay participants and doing so might affect their benefit entitlement.

3.3. Equal Opportunities

The Universities Equal Opportunities and Diversity policies equally extend to work experience placements.

Indeed B&ESY may be particularly helpful in setting up placements which promote non-traditional placements with regard to gender, race and disability, including mental health.

3.4. Confidentiality and Suitability

There may be some posts which are not suitable for students or young jobseekers to undertake either because of the sensitivity of information being handled or the nature of the work being done. There are no clear regulations in this area, but in general terms those roles which would require a CRB/SAC check, or are designated as `risk´ activities should be given very careful consideration before being assigned to a student or young jobseeker.

3.5. Insurance

In general terms from an insurance perspective, students or young jobseekers on a placement within the University will be considered as employees. As such any damage that results from the placement will be covered by the University´s liability insurance policies provided that the incident in question is the legal responsibility of the University.

Schools or Colleges may request evidence of insurance provision, in which case details can be provided. Requests for such evidence or other confirmation of insurances in place should be directed to the Insurance Section within the Department of Finance (insurance@sheffield.ac.uk)

3.6. Health and Safety

Risk Assessments

If the department has not hosted a work placement before, it is essential to refer to the existing departmental risk assessments, prior to hosting a placement, to consider whether there are any additional risks to students or young jobseekers. Where additional risks are identified, the department should put measures in place to reduce or eliminate them. To manage the identified risks, it may be necessary to include:

  • a more detailed induction;
  • provide additional supervision and instruction;
  • a site familiarisation;
  • any protective equipment needed.

It is important for the host department to keep a record of this risk assessment for future work placements. Following this initial assessment, the host department will not be required to conduct further risk assessments for subsequent work placements, providing the student or young jobseeker is of a broadly similar level of maturity and understanding, and has no particular or additional needs (the organiser or parent should tell you if they have).

If the placement has been arranged through B&ESY then they are able to provide detailed advice and may wish to conduct a work place visit to identify risks which are particularly relevant to young people. If such a visit is conducted then they will also produce a report.

For each placement, it will be necessary to discuss the risks with the placement organiser.

Induction & Training

It is a legal requirement, under the Management Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to provide relevant health and safety induction training to all individuals working within a department, whether they are staff, students or young jobseekers.

As part of introducing students or young jobseekers to the world of work, it is important that they receive appropriate health and safety information and training, within their first day’s induction, similar to that given to new members of staff. The student or young jobseeker may have little or no experience of being in a workplace and as such may require more detailed instruction and closer supervision than a new member of staff.

At the induction, it is essential to ensure that the student or young jobseeker understands how to raise any issues or concerns, in relation to health and safety, during their placement.

A suggested checklist of points to cover includes:

  1. Line manager – who will supervise the student’s/young jobseeker's work and notify others of the student’s/young jobseeker's presence.
  2. Safety policy – explanation of extant policies.
  3. Safety literature – written copies of safety literature, as required.
  4. Key safety people (e.g. nominated first aider) – Introduce them to student/young jobseeker or explain who they are and where to find them.
  5. Prohibited areas – May include some areas in addition to those that normally apply to other staff.
  6. Machinery and equipment – Students/young jobseekers should not attempt to use any equipment or machinery that they have not been trained on or are not qualified to use.
  7. Dangerous substances – Identify any substances which may be hazardous, and explain any container labelling required under COSHH.
  8. Lifting techniques – If lifting is part of the role then instruction should be given to ensure that correct methods or aids are used.
  9. General Housekeeping – Importance of a tidy workplace, closing cupboards/drawers, safe positioning of equipment and cables.
  10. Safe systems of work - Explain current working practices.
  11. Protective Clothing – Describe what is provided and explain how/when to be worn.
  12. Safety equipment – Where kept, and how and when to use.
  13. Hygiene – particularly important in some roles, but relevant to all. Include location of lavatories.
  14. Accident procedure – Including need to report injuries and location and nature of first aid.
  15. Fire Alarm – Explain action on discovering a fire or hearing an alarm.
  16. Emergency evacuation – Explain the procedure including routes, exits, assembly areas and reporting procedures.

Further guidance on relevant Health and Safety issues, including risk assessments, may be sought from Health & Safety.

In addition, further information and advice is available from the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk/youngpeople/index.htm

3.7. Protection of Young People

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006) and the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (CJCSA) bans disqualified persons from working in regulated positions. Disqualified persons are those who have a disqualification order against them as a result of having committed an offence against a child. A regulated position is one whose duties involve teaching, caring for, training, supervising, advising, treating or transporting children, either frequently, intensively and/or overnight.

Within the context of the University the best practise approach is to have a nominated individual in each department to undertake the role of work experience co-ordinator and a CRB Disclosure check carried out to confirm that they are not a disqualified person. They would then need to supervise the duration of each placement. However it is recognised that such an approach will not always be practical or even possible to delegate the responsibility for supervision to a single individual. Therefore the suggested good practise approach to ensure the protection of all parties is to ensure that students or young jobseekers on placement are not permitted to work unsupervised or in close confines with another individual. This may limit slightly the number of roles which would be suitable to be undertaken, but should not prevent the placement being undertaken.

If a Department decides they do wish to nominate a permanent Work Experience Supervisor then further information regarding the CRB Disclosure process may be sought from Human Resources who will advise how best to proceed.

4. Summary

These pages are intended to provide a useful guide, but cannot cover all eventualities. Each placement will be different and will largely be driven by the requirements of the school/college and the student or the job centre and the young jobseeker. However, regardless of such considerations, those areas covered under the list of organisational concerns above must be dealt with to the satisfaction of the department where the placement will take place.

If departmental staff require further guidance they can find further information from:

  • Department for Education and B&ESY (for students)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (for young jobseekers) through the web-links above.

Alternatively advice can be sought from Human Resources.

Document Control
Last Updated: 01/13
Date of next Review: 12/13