The information society demands;Viewpoint;Opinion

26th June 1998 at 01:00
A Year 11 pupil describes his work experience.

WORK experience often amounts to a five-day placement in the foothills of business enterprise. But there is a limit to what you can learn from filing and photocopying, however adult the environment. A more constructive alternative would be work that requires continued design and negotiation by the student, thereby replicating the business environment.

One strand in my work experience project involved writing an article for a national publication. It helped me gain:

* confidence in making business telephone calls; * negotiation skills; * computer skills; * research skills; * practice in electronic data transfer.

Another aspect was to produce and present a programme for my school's internal television network. This brought me into contact with a foreign culture by interviewing an American academic about global warming.

I had to work out the implications of trying to secure an interview across a different time zone. I decided - rather than being told - what electronic facilities to use: fax and e-mail.

My crisis management skills were tested when one expert cancelled her appearance 30 minutes before the live broadcast was due to begin. I managed to find a substitute in time.

I also learned more about team work - both as a member and a leader - in negotiating with film crews and production technicians.

In short, my work experience project enhanced, over several months, many of the key skills needed in a work environment - skills which many placements do not provide opportunities to develop.

The recording of these skills raises a further issue. The National Record of Achievement is a text-based archive that fails to reflect a pupil's range of skills. Even the recently announced Government proposal for electronic CVs with unique identifiers represents paper-based thinking with a skin deep software makeover. What is required beyond the paper based or electronic CV is a portfolio of achievements and skills animated by film footage, stills and soundtrack in addition to text.

The World Wide Web provides a particularly appropriate medium for the digital portfolio, and it can be updated regularly. More exciting is the fact that it can be accessed by anyone anywhere in the world - so it is a powerful means of self-promotion.

But if employers are to use digital portfolios as a recruitment aid, they need to follow a recognised format.

A solution could be to incorporate the digital portfolio into the framework of the national grid for learning. The Government should expand the grid as a national recruitment network for jobseekers and employers.

* Mark Vandevelde is a student at Sharnbrook Upper School, Bedfordshire.

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