From education to employment

Effectively preparing learners for work experience

No matter which way you look at it, receiving negative employer feedback is a “fail” where work experience is concerned. Not only has your College’s reputation amongst local employers been tarnished, but it also shows that the learner wasn’t properly prepared for their placement.

So what can you do to thoroughly prepare your learners for work placement?

Work experience can be a cause of great nervousness for many learners. Many questions will be bubbling away in their minds. What do I wear? What will I be doing? What does the company do? What will the environment be like? Will I like anyone? Do I need to take my own lunch? Where is it and how do I get there?

It can be very easy to assume that learners know and understand what you and I might consider to be the most trivial of basics when it comes to a working day. But from our experience of supporting 1000s of learners into work experience opportunities, this is far from true.

From the moment your learner commits to undertaking a work experience opportunity, you have a duty of care to ensure that learner is as fully prepared as possible. Basics such as employer address, start time, finish time, who to report to, dress code, lunch arrangements, working conditions and environment should all be confirmed and understood by the learner.

In addition, learning objectives should be agreed prior to start of work experience, with the end of placement review and reflection also scheduled.

Then, on top of the basics, there is also support for the employability skills and mindsets that will ensure your learners enjoy, feel confident and get the most out of their placement. Embedding the correct employability skills and mindsets are paramount to your learners been prepared for their work experience and giving your College an outstanding reputation amongst local employers.

Research has shown that 96% of employers prefer mindsets over skillsets when hiring staff and so, by helping your learners to understand and demonstrate these mindset qualities during their work placement, you are effectively preparing them for the world of work. The top mindset qualities that employers look for when recruiting are:

  1. Honesty and Trustworthiness
  2. Commitment
  3. Flexibility and Adaptability
  4. Accountability
  5. Determination
  6. Relationships

Helping your learners to understand and demonstrate these mindset qualities in the work place, will mean your learners are well and truly ready for their work experience placement. Your learners need to know how to demonstrate positive body language in the work place, show initiative, ask questions, adapt to different tasks, roles and people, take accountability for mistakes, contribute to the team and follow instructions. Your learners must also understand the importance of starting work on time and under exceptional circumstances when they are going to be late/absent they follow the correct lateness/absence reporting procedures.

By taking the time and effort to ensure that your learners understand the importance of mindset and the key employability skills, the only feedback you will have from employers will be along the lines of “have you got any more learners like that?”  and “Can I take on one of your learners as an apprentice?”


Tom Millar is Managing Director at REED NCFE who have recently developed a new Baseline Employability Skills Test which accurately, reliably and objectively assesses your learners work readiness. For more information contact 0191 605 3300.

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