A Guide to Work Experience and Placements
Work experience applies to all work-related activities that you participate in whilst at college, this could include; placements with external employers, social action, volunteering, site visits or any of our employer-led workshops and live project briefs.
As part of your study programme, you will work with a variety of employers from large organisations to freelance entrepreneurs, all of which will help you to develop the skills and knowledge needed for success in your chosen industry.
Why is Work Experience Important?
Your work experience will help to develop your employability skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork. These are key skills that are sought after by employers across all industries.
Undertaking work experience will improve your future job prospects as you will have industry-related experience on your CV, you will also gain insight into the variety of roles available to you so that you can confidently make decisions about your future.
Work experience activities will help you begin to build your very own network of employer contacts aligned to your personal needs and interests.
You will meet, and work alongside, employers who have helped to design your course so that it meets current industry standards, local charitable organisations who will help you learn about your community and plan social action projects and national organisations who can help you develop transferable skills to support your future career.
"I enjoy the hands-on learning and gaining skills that are so specific to the sector I want to gain a career in."
Gabriela Urbaniak, Rotherham College
What is a Work Placement?
Work placements (or industry placements – depending on the course you are on), refer to the practical experience you will gain in working with an external employer over a set period of time.
Work placements allow you to apply the knowledge and skills that you have developed on your course in a real working environment or to a specific employer-led project.
Placement hours will vary depending on your course and time spent with employers can range from block weeks to one day per week over several months.
It is essential that you complete a placement as part of your study programme. Your Skills and Employability Tutor will confirm the exact hours you are required to complete at the start of your course.
Who Can You Work With?
We work with hundreds of employers every year to provide a variety of work experience opportunities and placements.
Our RNN Employer Academies give employers the ability to support activities from guest speaking to hosting site visits, facilitating masterclasses and providing work placements. Our employers look for confident and enthusiastic students who can add value to their organisation.
In return, employers allow students to develop industry-standard skills and expertise.
Many employers will offer Apprenticeships and future employment opportunities to students who have successfully completed placements, therefore it is important that you make a good first impression and behave professionally.
“I've loved gaining experience within the industry and have been able to improve and grow my skills as a nail technician and a make-up artist.”
Elizabeth Otter, Rotherham College
Before your Work Placement
Before you begin your placement, there may be steps that you need to take such as securing funding or ensuring you have completed necessary checks or certifications.
If you receive financial support as part of your study programme, you should enquire with Student Services for information on funding available to support costs associated with work placements.
You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements to and from your work placement. Please make sure that you consider your travel when researching potential placements.
Disclosure and Barring Service Checks
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are required for work placements in some organisations such as hospitals, care homes, schools and nurseries.
Your Skills and Employability Tutor will confirm if your chosen placement requires a DBS check. Where this does apply, DBS checks will be funded by the College.
The DBS check form is completed online and you will be required to present identification at college to complete the process. The links below will guide you on acceptable forms of identification:
- DBS ID Documents List UK and EEA Nationals
- DBS ID Documents List – Non-UK and Non-EEA Nationals
Construction Skills Certification Scheme Cards
To undertake placements on some construction sites, you may be required to hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card. Your Skills and Employability Tutor will confirm if your chosen placement requires a CSCS card.
To gain a CSCS Card you will sit an online test which you must pass. Once you have passed you will need to purchase the CSCS Card which is valid for 2 years. After two years you will need to re-sit the test.
Tests and cards will be funded by the college; however, you will be required to contribute to the cost of the CSCS Card. If you receive financial support for your college course, funding may be provided on your behalf.
All CSCS tests should be booked through your Skills and Employability Tutor.
Evidencing your Work Experience
Navigate is an online platform which will help you to record all of your work experience and placements throughout your time at college. During the first few weeks of your study programme, you will be introduced to Navigate and asked to build your personal profile as well as complete a skills assessment.
This assessment will help you identify your skills starting point and from here, you can target work experience and enrichment activities which will help you to develop the skills you have identified to work on.
Through Navigate, you will be able to plan and prepare for work placements, including updating your profile with your on-the-job reflections, photos and videos of your learning. You will also receive live feedback from employers and support from your Skills and Employability Tutor, should you need it.
By the end of the year, your profile will evidence all of your work experience and support you to build a powerful CV. You will receive an achievement certificate via Navigate.
“Being here gets you ready for work with whatever you want to progress onto. I've also been able to meet professionals in the workplace and get an idea of what the industry is like."
Samuel Harper, Rotherham College
For all students on study programmes, your Skills and Employability Tutor will work alongside your Progress Tutor to deliver sessions as part of your Progress and Skills tutorials. In the first weeks of your course, your Skills and Employability Tutor will introduce to you the range of support that they can provide and how you can choose a variety of work experience activities through our DISCOVER enrichment programme.
So that you get the most out of your work experience and placement activities, you should have a good idea as to the types of role that you would like in the future.
If you are unsure, you can visit our online Careers page for more information and support.
We believe that all students should have the opportunity to complete work experience activities and placements in order to further their personal and career aspirations.
For students with additional needs or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), you should discuss with your Tutors your personal and career aspirations so that appropriate activities and support can be provided.
At the age of 16, I left school and attended college completing a level 2 and 3 Beauty Therapy qualification and also a level 3 Media Makeup qualification. As part of each course, I had to gain work experience.
After experiencing salon work I decided this wasn’t the right setting for me. I needed a bigger variety of clients and bigger challenges. A hotel spa was my next move and I gained unpaid work experience for a year whilst studying. Once qualified, I was accepted as a Spa Therapist leading to a rewarding 7 years in the industry within the Hilton Hotel Sheffield.
Over the 7 years, I also worked for Rotherham College as a Hair, Beauty and Media Make-up Technician and started to run a mobile business.
My passion was so strong for the industry that I knew I had the ability to teach. My next step at the age of 22 was to apply for teaching status and help others build a career as I had done. I needed to gain more work experience as part of the teaching course and this is where I applied for unpaid employment at RNN group (previously Rotherham College). I later received a university teaching certificate and landed a teaching job in the industry.
Ten years later I have become an industry specialist. I have built a successful mobile business, I am able to teach and help others build skills and knowledge in the Hair, Beauty and Media Make-up industry, all starting from work experience at the Hilton hotel at the age of 17.
Showing willingness to work, having passion and striving for the best will allow you to achieve your goals. Work experience started my career, will it start yours?
Once you have an idea of the sector you want to work in, you will need to source your work placement.
During your first week, your Skills and Employability Tutor will give you access to our online Work Placement Fayre where you can research the employers we work with, learn more about employability skills, prepare for a placement and take your first steps in contacting an employer.
If you don’t find an employer who can offer you the placement you are interested in, you can register for support from your Skills and Employability Tutor who will help you find a suitable placement.
If you have any questions about work experience or placements, please contact your Skills and Employability Tutor directly. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for general enquiries.