Dr Marcus Allen is Careers and Higher Education Adviser at Ashford School. Ashford School is a co-educational day, nursery and boarding school for boys and girls aged 0-18.

At what age can pupils arrange a work experience placement?
At what age can pupils arrange a work experience placement? In theory at any age, although the placement may be more of a ‘work shadow’. Some employers are unable to give work experience placements to under sixteens because of health and safety guidelines.

How do you advise pupils on the type of placements that they should apply for?
This is done on an individual basis and will depend on both the talents, aspirations and plans of the pupils.

What’s the average duration of a work experience placement?
This can vary from an afternoon to two weeks. It is the quality of the experience in terms of what the pupils learn and achieve that is important rather than the duration.

How much of an effect do work experience placements have on a pupil’s future career?
A placement can have a dramatic effect on a pupil’s future career and even on their schoolwork. Pupils are often very motivated after a placement and pursue their school and career goals with more vigour. Sometimes a placement can make pupils reflect and re-adjust their career plans, especially if the experience has made them realise that the particular career is definitely not for them. These can often be the most useful placements.

What advice would you give to a pupil who has been unable to find a placement in the area that they’re most interested in?
First, use all the friends, relatives etc. you can to try and get the placement in an area you are interested in. Be persistent! If this is not possible, you can always contact someone who does work in that area and ask for 10 minutes of their time to tell you about their job. This can be very informative and most people (even those who are very busy) will give up 10mins to tell you about what they do.

What variety of placements do pupils at your school opt for?
A vast range from medical-related to marketing, business and finance. Many pupils also attend career-specific courses or lectures provided by universities, organisations and employers.

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