Work Experience

Student Guide to Work Experience

What is a work experience placement?

A placement with an employer in which a young person carries out a range of tasks in much the same way as an employee, with the emphasis on learning from the experience. Work experience provides opportunities for learning about the skills, behaviours, careers, roles and structures that exist within a workplace. 

How to find a work experience placement?

Depending upon the school or college that you attend, you may have the opportunity to undertake a placement. Work experience can only take place from year 10 onwards. Your school or college will have a work experience coordinator who you can talk to about the different options to find a placement. 

Before your work experience placement

It is recommended that you arrange a pre-placement meeting before the placement starts. This will allow you to have a ‘practice run’ for the travel element, to see the business premises and meet with your contact so it is not so daunting on the first day. It will also provide a valuable opportunity to ask questions such as;

  • What time should you arrive and what time will you finish
  • Where to report to on the first day and to whom
  • What are break/lunch arrangements – is there somewhere to buy lunch or should you bring a packed lunch?
  • What is the dress code and do you need to provide any PPE (Personal protective equipment e.g. protective footwear)
  • Do you need to bring anything extra with you?

It is a good idea to keep a diary of your experiences while on placement and any feedback from your employer as you may be able to use this at college or job interviews. The employer may also be willing to provide you with a reference when you are applying for jobs, so make sure you give a good impression! 

Employer expectations

Prior to the placement, it is a good idea for you to research your employer to gain a basic knowledge of the company in order to understand the possible expectations that the employer will have. Employer expectations will also be discussed at the pre-placement meeting.

However, you should be aware of the expectations that all employers will have;

  • Positive attitude
  • Show interest
  • Polite and friendly
  • Ability to follow instructions/listening skills
  • Hard working
  • Punctual and reliable
  • Appearance and hygiene – appropriately dressed.

Your expectations

You may a different expectation of what a placement will be like compared to reality. Therefore you should have realistic expectations for your placement.

  • Age, lack of experience, lack of training, knowledge, skills and health and safety restrictions will limit some of the tasks that you can do.
  • Time will be spent observing colleagues especially in environments that are high risk such as building/construction, garages and engineering.
  • Routine tasks such as cleaning, tidying, filing etc will be done.
  • A full working day will be undertaken in the majority of placements not ‘school hours’

Placement reflection

Work experience should be treated as a ‘learning experience’ and not just a week out of school. Therefore you need to reflect upon your placement to consolidate what you learnt and apply to your future career planning and goal setting. You should ask yourself;

  • Did you enjoy the placement and was it beneficial?
  • What new skills did you learn and develop?
  • Do you now have an idea of what employers require from their employees?
  • Has it given you a better idea of what career path you want to take?

If you didn’t enjoy the experience this is also a positive thing! Now you can investigate other career paths which may interest you.

Above all, use the experience to help you make informed choices about your future. 

Useful Information

Download the student's guide to work experience

Download the guide to finding your own placement

Download the guide on how to contact an employer


The East Sussex County Council work experience team uses the Local Authority CCIS Aspire database to organise and process work experience placements. Your personal information already exists on this database in line the statutory duty placed upon schools to share with the Local Authority. Further details on this duty and how your data is collected, shared and stored can be found on your school's Privacy Notice, published on their website.