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Work Placements: What are they and how can they help your business?

Work Placements are a vital part of education and employment in the world of modern business. When planned and executed with care, they are a career-builder for students and a vital part of an employer’s recruitment and training strategy and bring vibrancy to an existing workplace.

To put work placements in context, the oft-romanticised bygone days are gone where a student could walk straight out of school or college and get a job with ease or waltz into their career of choice.

In 2020 and beyond, students need to have a competitive edge by having worked in their chosen industry and have real and meaningful experience with which to impress a prospective employer with their work-related skills. Equally, to ensure that the workforce remains strong and dynamic, employers and local businesses need to have a strong link to local young people who will form the next generation of their labour force.

As such, work placements form a crucial link between education and everything that comes after. They are a critical success factor for young people today and for thriving, forward-thinking businesses who see how to gain the edge over their competitors.

So, what is a work placement?

A work placement is a period of supervised work where a student has the opportunity to undertake a specific role within a company or organisation to gain valuable experience and insight into the area where they are making career choices.

Does a ‘work placement’ at college differ from work experience at school?

In short, yes, a work placement is different - it’s arguably much better. At York College, we have a dedicated Work Placement Team who work with thousands of employers across Yorkshire and nationally to source and allocate the very best work placements to our students. Whereas schools often work from databases of pre-arranged placement opportunities that do not always relate to a students’ interests or career path, the York College approach is a personalised one where we try to match an employer and a student closely by knowledge, interest, geographical location and personality.

By knowing our students and knowing the businesses we work with, we aim to ensure that everyone gets what they need out of a work placement.

What are the benefits for students?

For students, the benefits are numerous. They help young people to grow in confidence, network within local industries and continue to develop the skills needed to be highly proficient in the workplace.

Whilst classroom and college-based learning is Outstanding at York College, work placement experience can take learning to the next level. Many organisations have cutting edge technology or exciting schemes that mean students can obtain first-class insight into the ever-changing world in which their career will take them.

This kind of hands-on experience is indispensable. When a student makes the most of the opportunities available to them, this opens up new possibilities for the student, both in the here and now, and in the future. Many students obtain part-time work as a result of a placement or end up undertaking an apprenticeship or even a paid position at the end of the placement.

What are the benefits for employers?

Young people bring with them a host of skills that will be necessary in the changing world of the 21st century. Trained ethnographer, TED Talk speaker and organisational guru, Simon Sinek, identifies four main attributes that millennials possess which make them organisational gems and innovative future workers and leader:

They’re willing to speak out.

They’re natural entrepreneurs.

They project confidence.

They’re inclusive.

Although young people need the support and mentoring of more established colleagues, Simon Sinek maintains that millennials are quick-thinking, forthright, desire improvement, are innovative, are global citizens of the world and are adept at thinking about financial advancement for themselves and the organisation they work for.

In order to thrive, it is very important that organisations and businesses continue to change and evolve in line with cultural expectations. Young people can be the missing piece of the talent pipeline, bringing with them opportunities for the organisation to self-assess, innovate, develop and find new avenues for growth.

Who would not want a staff with such a skill set working for them in order to bring about workplace evolution?

What are the practicalities of a work placement?

Work placements range in terms of time commitment. Many are around 35 hours and take place on one day per week for around five weeks during the student’s study day. However, others are built into the course requirement and can be significantly more. With the incoming T Levels qualifications which sit in line with A Levels in terms of challenge and UCAS weighting, the work placement commitment is 315+ hours across two academic years and can take a variety of forms that fit with each learner’s studies.

Work placements are usually unpaid as a standard rule, but this is completely at the employer’s discretion. If an employer wants to pay a student, they absolutely may and it would still count as a work placement as long as the employer is offering a student opportunities for growth.

Students work in conjunction with the York College placement team to agree upon a placement which works for both the student and the employer and a student’s progress tutor may also be involved in the conversation as well.

What if I still want to know more?

York College Placement Team staff wish to ensure that prospective and current students, parents and employers all feel that they have the information they need to hand in order to make informed choices about work placements. Equally, if your company or organisation can offer a work placement, please do not hesitate to contact the Placement Team for a brief discussion about the kinds of project work or everyday work that a York College student could support with.

If you’d like to know more, do not hesitate to contact the team with any query or opportunity. The Placement Team are contactable via the following details:

Phone: 01904 770830


We look forward to talking with you and urge you to contact us for a more in-depth conversation about work placements.