Work Experience

The highlight of last week was having my 15 year old daughter on work experience with me. Apart from exposing her to a couple of very long days commuting between Broughty Ferry and Glasgow I think she really enjoyed it (but probably not half as much as I did). Her week included:

* Meeting my boss, LTS Chief Executive Bernard McLeary to get an overview of the work of LTS.
* Software testing/quality assurance for a virtual work experience product we are working on with Careers Scotland (now part of Skills Development Scotland).
* Researching, writing and publishing news items on the LTS Online Service [her favourite task].
* Getting a preview of some of the functionality of Glow [she takes the functionality for granted as you would expect].
* Attending a conference ‘Public Sector Reform’ in Edinburgh – setting up an LTS stand, handing out the Glow dvd and listening to a keynote speech by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney [she also managed to fit in some shopping on Princes Street on the way home and was delighted].
* Working with Derek Robertson in the Dundee LTS Consolarium.
* Shadowing my PA Val Bell to get an understanding of the LTS back office and the importance of good systems and processes – the ones that help people to be effective in their roles.

I also thought she got lots more in terms of being part of a workplace environment, being treated as an adult, being given responsibility for getting things done on her own, understanding some of the disciplines (and flexibilities) of work compared to school, seeing people working in teams, seeing people getting on with their work because they are self-motivated rather than because they are supervised … and much more.

At the end of the week she decided that she really didn’t want my job – ‘maybe a similar one but doing different stuff’. (Just as well because there isn’t a vacancy right now and she would be pretty good competition 🙂

Her pals have also been on their S3 work experience week and it’s been really interesting to hear what they have been doing: building a cardboard model of house (design/architect); cleaning out paint trays [must have more to this one] (printers); working as ski instructor in Holland [artificial slope of course] plus the usual suspects including office and shop work.

There is no doubt in my mind that work experience can help young people to make informed career decisions and should be part of the planned curriculum. It’s also important to remember that many young people already have a lot of work experience beyond school – from the early riser delivering newspapers, to the customer focussed shop workers and the unpaid young carers.

So what should high quality work experience offer? Well for a start it should:

* Help young people to look ahead to life beyond school and understand the pathways towards a ‘positive destination’
* Raise expectations and aspirations for all – beyond the already familiar roles of friends, neighbours and family.
* Provide insights into the world of work (including the benefits and drawbacks of being employed v being self-employed)
* Provide a perspective on what is good and bad about being at school
* Provide an incentive to ‘stick in at school/college’ and continue to learn rather than escape early (to some extent this depends on how well the school can meet the needs of the young person) and of course
* Contribute to the development of the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence

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