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August 13, 2015

Paul Redmond’s article on the rise of work experience will come as no surprise to the many staff working to support students who are taking work experience as part of their university course (“Rise of work experience presents universities with a range of challenges”, 7 August).

Those of us involved in the partnership work required between universities, employers and students have known for some time that the doors to graduate employment are more readily opened with work experience – and increasingly the right kind of work experience at the right employer. The talent-pipeline mindset of many employers has led to the introduction and expansion of insight days and first-year single-week placements in addition to the more traditional sandwich placement. There has also been a substantial increase in the number of postgraduate programmes that include work experience, from the employer-based dissertation to a full year in industry, and Vitae has called for PhD candidates to be given opportunities for work experience as part of their researcher development.

All this is good news for students, who get the opportunity to try out careers, sectors and employers during their studies that will hopefully lead to more informed choices on graduation. But I particularly welcome, and echo, Redmond’s call for universities to properly understand the degree of investment, resourcing and strategic commitment that it takes to support work experience provision properly. To fail to do so will have a significant impact on the student experience, on students’ satisfaction with their course and on their graduate prospects.

Sarah Flynn
Chair, Association for Sandwich Education and Training

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