Placements position

April 17, 2014

I found the report on a survey that discovered that nearly all undergraduates say work placements and careers advice are valuable, but that less than half end up using them (“Work experience: it’s a good idea”, News, 3 April), rather frustrating.

First, the report is written as if this is a new issue: it is not. Colleagues at my university, led by Lee Harvey, undertook a significant piece of research in the late 1990s, under contract with the Department for Education and Employment, which explored stakeholder perspectives on work experience in higher education. Their research, called simply Work Experience, identified that work experience at that time was of clear value to students in developing their own employability. Indeed, students themselves recognised its value as an aid to getting a job in their chosen field.

Second, the report focuses on higher education careers services rather than on the wider sector and other stakeholders. Periodically, what Baroness Blackstone once referred to as the “Cinderella service” is called on to play a central role in graduate employability, yet without the resources. The Work Experience research recommended that all key stakeholders needed to be involved in the development of suitable work experience opportunities. Employers, institutions and governments were called on to work together to provide suitable opportunities, while staff and students needed to be more aware of the value of learning that takes place outside the classroom.

Finally, the report overlooks that there is much good practice across the sector. Several institutions are making significant efforts to improve the employability of their students by developing systems that give them valuable work experience. Since employability is now recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency as being a significant quality indicator, perhaps things will finally move on.

James Williams
Senior researcher
Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences
Birmingham City University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham