Work experience can come in many different forms: blocks of work related experience, a short two week work experience, a year-long industry placement, an internship, a volunteering experience linked to the curriculum, paid part-time employment linked to the curriculum, project/consultancy work. There are a varied range of experiences undergraduates and post graduates can participate in to develop their expertise. Staff may need to be creative when thinking about and supporting students to gain or recognise a wealth of experiences that enrich their employability. For example a student who is a school governor can be gaining a wide range of employability skills including committee working, strategic planning, chairing meetings, finance and budgeting, decision making to name a few.
Having work experience, particularly discipline-relevant experience, has been shown to make students more employable (Brooks and Youngson, 2016; Little and Harvey, 2006; Hall et al 2009, Lowden et al, 2011). Employers seek graduates with work experience (e.g. High Fliers, 2016; Wakeham, 2016) because it provides students with crucial exposure to the skills, attributes and experiences that employers require in the workplace e.g. commercial awareness, advanced problem-solving, interpersonal skills and resilience. Academics also report noticeable improvements in student motivation, attitude and attainment after students return from work experience (Jones et al, 2015); there is therefore a wider academic argument for the inclusion of work experience in the curriculum.
The University Careers & Employability team support Placements and Work-based Learning and they provide a Placement Guide – Placements and Work-Based Learning Employability Offer