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Work experience can take many forms, for example:
Formal work placement opportunities with large employers include internships and sandwich placements.
These are highly structured placements offering graduate-level work and they tend to take place over the summer and Easter holidays. They usually last between 8-12 weeks, involve comprehensive training and will typically allow you to complete a specific project which will make a real difference to the company's profitability. Throughout your placement you will be closely monitored and assessed as most employers screen their interns for the following year's positions. Internships are mainly based in city based companies and are particularly common in organisations involved in banking, investment and financial services, strategic and management consultancies and engineering firms.
Sandwich placements usually take place during the third year of a four year technical or vocational degree course. Over 60 universities run placements in subjects as diverse as construction, engineering, hospitality, business, management and performing arts. Placements are available throughout the UK and amount you will get paid varies from job to job. You'll need to submit a good application as competition for these places can be tough. Your overall performance will contribute to your final degree classification. As an added incentive many employers will consider students who perform well for full-time jobs on graduation.
The majority of students now undertake paid casual work during their time at university. It is not usually directly related to their course of study or future career aim and can range from bar work to customer service and increasingly, call centre work.
Many companies seek skilled students to complete specific projects within their organisation. Although unpaid these can be excellent opportunities to gain really relevant experience, give you real responsibility and can often be completed part-time. Typical projects can include:
This is normally unpaid (although expenses are normally covered) and allows you to observe the work of a professional usually at a senior or managerial level. You will get first-hand experience of time pressures and workloads for, usually, anything up to five days. Most companies are amenable for keen students to visit and see how they work - especially smaller employers who do not offer structured placements.
These provide you with the opportunity to learn a bit more about a particular type of work or company without commitment. Open days are mostly run during the spring and summer and are unpaid but you may have your travel expenses reimbursed. They often take place at universities or within a company's office. Students who attend will receive presentations about career opportunities, participate in business games and get the chance to speak to recent graduates.
Several universities and careers services offer two or three week courses, covering management, media, technical or marketing work. The programmes involve business games, case studies and projects tackling management issues. Some courses may require a registration fee. Students who get involved are given the opportunity to discuss their careers and question recent graduates about their roles.
There are a vast range of activities in the voluntary sector. Jobs can include anything from helping the homeless to conservation work, archaeology, promoting the arts and sciences or sports and media initiatives. Opportunities are not just confined to the UK as projects are also available overseas often in developing countries. Placements can be run in conjunction with your studies or be a structured scheme lasting for an entire holiday.
Whatever the size or capability of a company an employer benefits from taking students on work experience. Employers feel that students can offer many qualities to their organisation and can bring fresh new ideas or develop projects that the company just hasn't had time to implement.