Working towards a life experience

28th March 2003 at 00:00
You reported last week that schools need actively to challenge sex stereotyping in relation to work experience and employment. In my experience schools do a very great deal to challenge such stereotyping.

However, your brief report implies an intended direct matching between school-organised work experience and intended future careers. This is not the central intention of work experience, the primary purpose of which is to enable experience of the world of work and the personal and social challenges it offers.

School-organised work experience is entirely dependent on that very variable commodity, goodwill. Regrettably an increasing number of employers - both large and small - are unwilling to provide placements for a variety of reasons, including health and safety, insurance and of course, the demands that accommodating pupils make on staff time and responsibilities in today's leaner, flatter organisations.

Well organised, high quality work experiences, suitably matched to the interests and aspirations of the pupil can, and do, contribute to the development of the "can do" attitude sought by Tom Hunter.

Unfortunately one of the reasons why so many placements are so "traditional" is the simple fact that there are insufficient private sector placements available to offer the choice expected by pupils and parents.

Local authorities, as employers, support their schools by being major providers of placements, placements which reflect the job roles in their organisations. But the mechanisms and resources available to support sourcing, inspection and quality of pupil place-ments varies enormously across Scotland, from exemplary to minimal.

There is also great variation in the involvement and practical support by Careers Scotland whose predecessors had developed major links with employers. The expected benefit from marrying this post-16 experience and data, with the obvious need to improve and assist the pre-16 age group in the shape of more and better work experience, has not happened.

One wonders why not, when it would so obviously assist implementation of present work experience, and also the "work-based vocational learning" now expected.

Another case for the application of demonstrable joined-up ministerial thinking and action?

John Bonington

Quality Improvement Officer

Falkirk Council

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