Many recruiters in various industries will look for candidates to have some form of work experience on their CV, so help improve your chances of securing employment with a work placement.

What is a work placement?

A work placement is a temporary role within an organisation that provides students with the opportunity to utilise skills and knowledge in a real working environment. It also provides the chance to experience a fundamental job role within any given industry. A work placement might form a crucial part of your degree or qualification so are usually completed during term-time.

The type of work you do will depend on the employer and job role. Still, it will typically involve shadowing and learning from an experienced member of staff in the workplace and generally assisting with day-to-day activities that help the business run effectively.

Companies are required to pay the national minimum wage to anyone classed as a worker. However, exceptions to this include if the placement is part of an academic programme, or working for a registered charity.

Types of Work Placement

–   Industry Placements usually are undertaken alongside studying a degree to supplement the skills and knowledge gained with experience in a real job setting. 

–   Sandwich-degrees are programmes offered by universities that combine a conventional degree with working in a related industry for a year in the UK, or even abroad.

–   Internships typically are offered to graduates looking to take the first steps towards a long-term career within an organisation. They are usually designed with the opportunity of a full-time contract when completed.

–   Work experience is commonly undertaken for much shorter periods and is often unpaid, traditionally completed outside of term-time and not necessarily related to a specific degree

Benefits of work placements

There are numerous benefits to completing a work placement as part of your university programme. Work placements increase your overall employability, and there is some evidence that suggests students perform better in their final year exams after completing a year in industry. They can also be excellent preparation for when you finish your qualification and are ready to explore the jobs market.

Here are some other advantages to completing a work placement:

  1. Provides valuable experience in a real-world setting
  2. Learn new skills alongside working a real job
  3. Gain an insight into a specific industry or field of work
  4. Offers you useful networking opportunities
  5. Give you the ability to obtain a reference, which could make the difference for future job opportunities
  6. You get paid for the hours you work (in longer placements)

Arranging Work Placements

Despite usually forming part of your qualification, the responsibility of securing an offer for a work placement lies with you. However, the majority of university and education establishments will have placement officers to provide support and guidance when identifying opportunities and approaching employers.

Starting the search early, preferably at the beginning of your second year, can be an easy way of getting ahead of the curve. With the more renowned employers receiving applications from hundreds of candidates, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd, so it is a good idea to tailor your cover letter and CV for each role.

Also consider smaller companies, which may allow you to use your initiative more often and often provide opportunities to return when your studies are complete.

Benefits for Employers

By offering work placements to students, you are providing them with an opportunity to experience life working for your organisation, whilst setting them up with tools to complete their studies and gain future employment.

Benefits of offering work placements to students include:

  • Raise your profile within the industry
  • Help source new talent for your business
  • Play a key role in developing the next generation of workers
  • Gain a fresh perspective from bright young minds
  • Develop existing workplace mentors
  • Get additional support in the workplace for little cost