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National Careers Week- How to help your child find work experience.

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Hello everyone,

Today marks the start of national careers week. I am going to add a few topical articles to our webpage this week around this subject drawing on some of my previous experience. 

In my previous jobs I was heavily involved in organising work placements for young people. I was the work experience co-ordinator at a large local wildlife park for many many years and then embarked on a new career at an animal science college organising hundreds of work placement for children aged 16-19 for over 7 years. I am a qualified careers advisor and a health and safety in the workplace assessor.

I know from my experience that work placements can cause a lot of worry, stress and anxiety for young people and their parents and over the years I like to think I have developed some advice I can give to young people and their parents which may help.

Organising a work placement

Whose job is it?

This will very much depend on the level your child is studying at currently. If they are in year 10 you will find the teaching staff may have more of an active role in helping your child organise a placement, if they are older its likely the responsibility will lay with your child (with your support).

This does not mean that you as a parent should solely be responsible for organising a work placement, I know the temptation is there to take control and call placements or email them yourself but actually this is not as helpful to your child as you may think.

A huge part of work experience begins before they even set foot on a placement. Work experience aims to equip your children with skills that will be useful when trying to find employment, and being able to address emails correctly (with appropriate email addresses!) and talk to potential employers on the phone is a huge part of this.

I would often have parents of 19 year olds still calling employers for them and this is not acceptable. By all means help, support and encourage your child but the actual applications should be made by your child (if they school are not doing it for you). If they need to attend an interview by all means take them, but take a step back and let them go in alone. You can cheer them on from the sidelines but remember it is their work placement and not yours.

Which placement?

Depending on the age of the child they may or may not have a clear idea about what they want to do as a job when they finish education. So this would be your first step, you should consider:

  •  Can your child get to the placement they are applying for? - please do not apply for placements your child has no way of getting to, you will be wasting the employers time by doing so and causing yourself a lot of hassle and stress when you inevitably have to cancel.
  •  What are your child's interests? What do they (not you) want to do when they are older?
  •  What skills does your child have? If they don't know the answer to the above think about what are they good at?
  •  What will the achieve from this placement? 
  •  What transferable skills could they learn from this placement? If the placement isn't in the direct field your child wants to work in are there skills that would transfer over?
  •  Do they have realistic expectations of a work placements? This is a big one! You need to ensure your child's feet remain firmly on the ground. As a zookeeper I would often have students moaning that "all we did was cleaning" when partaking in a zoo work placement for example. You child isnt there to take all the rubbish jobs but they will be given tasks according to their experience and capabilities and of course these may be fairly lowly tasks as first.

There are some great resources here: There's a link to youth employment centre here  and the Princes trust here .

How do I find out this information

  • Your school or college may give you a list of appropriate work placements which take on students (but they may not).
  •  Once you have narrowed down your child's interests the internet is your best friend (google!!!)
  • Ask friends and family if they know of anywhere.
  •  Look on companies webpages.

How should my child apply?

  • Notice the emphasis here is on how MY CHILD (and not you) should be applying, they must apply themselves.
  •  If you child doesn't have a CV now is a good time to help them put one together (There's a link here which may be helpful) .
  •  Ensure your child has an appropriate email address (ideally their school or college one) I have lost track of the number of students emailing from emails like "hippy chick 2017"
  • Help you child develop a covering letter or introduction to their email.
  • Email work placements (ideally addressed to the person in charge of placements) in the email please outline the length of the placement they need and the dates, then attach a CV.
  • If you cannot find the contact email address either have your child call and ask (if they are not comfortable with talking on the phone to a stranger help them write a script) or visit in person to hand in a CV.
  • Then wait, give it a good week before trying to chase up (companies are often busy.)
  • Apply to more than one placement.

When should they apply

  • Placements are highly sort after , in my experience I would advise applying as soon as you have the dates of your child's placement. 

Other top tips for parents

  • Work with your childs school or college - not against them. If they tell you a particular placement isnt suitable by all means ask why but remember they are only doing their job.
  • Ensure your child takes their placement seriously, they need to be on time, they need to turn up every day, if they are sick they need to call in.
  • If problems arise, contact your child's school or college - they have a duty of care to their pupil and will have safe guarding and health and safety as a priority.
  • If they have a workbook or diary to keep encourage them to write it every evening. Its easy to forget details later on.
  •  Encourage pupils to ask for a reference at the end of their placement. At their age references will be minimal and if applying for jobs later they will need them. Work placement providers may not remember your child in a few weeks or months time so ask at the end of the placement.
  • Make sure work placement forms are handed in on time to your child's school or college. They will have health and safety checks to do and will need time to do them.

I hope you find this little guide helpful if you have any further questions I would be happy to try and answer them for you. (You can contact me here).

There is a link to the government careers helpline for teenagers here .

Thanks for reading

Kayleigh

XxxX

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