A recent article in Edtech Review looks at how 14 to 30 year olds are using social media platforms and whether they are appropriate for use in education. This is an interesting question and one the Career Colleges Trust has reviewed, based on research conducted by Coralesce and commissioned and funded by the Education and Training Foundation. Research across 40 institutions representing 25,000 practitioners, identified that 70% of practitioners felt their digital literacy skills were insufficient.
Last year the Government introduced legislation that would allow Further Education Colleges to accept 14-16 year olds on a full time basis. Whilst this was seen as a very encouraging move by many, it was also met with some trepidation...would it mean FE Colleges taking on schools in the battle to fill places?
The DfE states that work experience must be 'meaningful' - but what exactly is this and is it achievable for a 14, 15 or 16 year old?I absolutely believe it is, but we need to move away from the misconceptions that so often blight the work experience concept.Too many people imagine work experience to be something you do in an office for one or two weeks, as well as believing that SMEs can't or won't engage as they don't have the resource.It's crucial that such myths are dispelled and we can do this by highlighting not only what can be done to offer young people experience of work – but what actually is being done.Many Further Education colleges have excellent links with local industry. Businesses are often familiar with the programmes being taught at the local college and indeed, the people teaching them. And, encouragingly, there has been a move to project-based learning in recent years by many colleges and this has been of huge benefit to the students.Live project briefs, preferably commissions, are a great way to engage young people in the real work of work. Whether this is designing an app, catering for an event or supporting a community event – such activities are hugely valuable for students and puts the theory they are learning into a real-life context.How will a learner know if they really like catering without working in a busy kitchen at peak time and seeing if the pressure works for them? Of course they need some training to flourish and not be frightened off, but work shadowing plays a huge part in this and is meaningful experience.For employers, there is real benefit in offering opportunities to the local community. It can help secure their future workforce and ultimately allow them to identify potential talent early on. It also gives existing members of staff the chance to develop some of their own skills in terms of mentoring and coaching young people.In the case of SMEs, they need to feel they are getting something back and concierge-style services to help them through peaks in their work is a great way to do this. Many FE colleges do it already.However, what many FE college struggle with is enabling learners to take up opportunities arising at short notice. In most cases, timetabling just doesn't allow it and students miss out on what could be a very valuable experience.Another barrier to making work experience meaningful is the fact that it is rarely embedded into the programme of study and as a result, is rarely well supported. It can count towards learning aims and study programme hours, but the classification of 'authorised absence' on registers commonly reflects the lack of integration within the curriculum.