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GCSE Work Experience

Nothing prepares you better for the world of work during GCSE years than a spell of unpaid work experience. Firms around the country offer valuable opportunities to 16-18 year old students, providing an insight into the skills needed when you start work. 

Work experience contracts generally last from 1 day up to 2 weeks, and can help you decide whether a certain career path really is for you, making choices easier at the end of Year 11.

Businesses in all industries offer these placements, allowing you to gain valuable life experience and see how companies operate from day-to-day.

How do you go about getting a work experience placement during your GCSE years?

Your school will already have links with local businesses, who may have taken on students in the past.

Teachers will discuss the range of opportunities available, but you may be able to request a placement within a specific company if you have one in mind. 

A company called Career Academies UK provides paid work placements that are similar to internships, but offer much more support and guidance in the workplace. They generally last for 6 weeks during the summer between Year 10 and Year 11, and allow you to gain a great deal of exposure to everyday business life.

The advantages of getting a work placement

It prepares you for the world of work, and illustrates how you need to get along with colleagues and superiors.

Work experience provides an insight into a potential future career – it can cement a chosen career path, or dissuade you from taking it at all. Either way, it’s much better to find out early if a particular career is not for you.

You see the relevance of what you are learning at school. For example, working within a small technology business would illustrate the importance of your IT or Computing coursework.

A relevant work placement will motivate you to work hard at school, having seen what exam success could lead to.

What does a work placement involve?

The main idea behind work placements is to learn about the world of work in general, and your chosen industry in particular. You will be assigned a mentor or ‘buddy’ who can answer all your questions and make sure that you enjoy your time at the company.

The employer should already have a work plan prepared, so you might sit with someone and watch what they do.

You may be given tasks such as filing and data input, or simply help others by distributing the mail.

How work experience benefits you

A work placement offers many benefits, including:

Learning which skills are needed in the workplace, not just in terms of technical or academic ability, but also personal qualities such as time management, communication, and working as part of a team.

Finding out a little about a particular industry lets you make an informed decision regarding your future career. You can read all there is about a particular industry, but it’s no substitution for practical work experience.

Getting a placement relevant to your potential career path, or an area in which you are interested, adds value to your time away from school, and can provide the motivation to succeed in exams.

There is a chance that you might be offered a job with the employer in the future, once they’ve seen how well you work, and how you get along with others.

A period of work experience looks great on your CV, and whatever you choose to do after GCSEs, it shows that you’ve acquired some workplace skills.

A great reference from the company also boosts your chances of being accepted onto another course of study, or into a paid job.

A successful period of work experience within a supportive company is time well spent, and proves that you have what it takes to see things through.

As well as looking good on your CV, it helps you to develop life skills that you can rely on in the future.