Getting into work has always been challenging, and never more so than this year, with the barrier of COVID-19 putting thousands of jobs at risk and making it even harder for young and potentially inexperienced applicants to find a role. That’s why work experience remains such an important part of education, opening the door to students who are still unqualified without placing further strain on employers who may already be struggling.
At Wiltshire College & University Centre, every student enrolled on a full-time Further Education course will undertake between 30 to 150 hours of Work Experience during each year of their course. Not only do our students build the experience to gain employment, but crucially they get a taste of their chosen industry and of what their daily lives may be like after finishing College.
In 2018, as part of the pilot programme to prepare colleges for T-Levels, the College launched Industry Placements for Level 3 students. Industry Placements are an extended period of Work Experience, in which students attend the workplace for 315 hours across the academic year. This extended placement gives students a greater chance to feel part of their working team, build confidence, put their College learning and skills to use in a real setting and develop as an employee.
At the College we have a dedicated Work Placement Team that facilitates, supports and guides all students and employers through the Work Placement journey. Megan Thomas, Work Placement Team Leader, said: ‘Working side by side with the students, it's very clear to us how much these opportunities mean to them; not only do they gain industry-based skills, but they are able to grow as a person and enhance their ‘soft’ skills.
‘For some of our students, their Work Placement is their first taste of the world of work, and we all know that can be extremely daunting!
‘We work with an extensive list of businesses, with many fantastic employers supporting our students year after year. However, we are always on the lookout to connect with more businesses.’
Throughout the first half of 2020, as the country was in lockdown, the Work Placement Team ensured students didn’t miss out on gaining skills and experiences by working with local employers to set project briefs for students to work on remotely. As of September, and with COVID precautions in place, physical placements have returned. However, virtual projects and online masterclasses will remain an exciting element of the Work Placement programme for 20/21. COVID has of course affected some of the businesses we work with, so more than ever it is crucial for the Work Placement Team to connect with local employers who are willing to offer opportunities to our students, whether this be through a physical placement or via an online masterclass.
As a team this year, our goal is to motivate, inspire and engage our students. It has been a really tough year so far, and whilst we are uncertain of how the future will look, its vital we make sure this generation of students don’t miss out on experiences and opportunities to help them build, grow and support their future.
If you think you could help support our students, this could be via an external placement (30 – 315 hours) or an online masterclass – please get in touch with the Work Placement Team on firstname.lastname@example.org