Work Experience

For a number of vocational degrees, work experience could make the difference between getting an interview and instant rejection.  It is therefore crucial that they arrange something before writing their personal statement.  The personal statement doesn’t look good if it is simply full of things they  are going to do rather than things they have already done.   The college will be able to organise some work experience but they should also make the best use of any contacts that you have!
Work experience is important for two main reasons:

  • to demonstrate commitment to your career choice
  • to prove you have chosen this career path fully informed

MEDICINE, DENTISTRY AND VETERINARY SCIENCE

Both in their  personal statement and at interview they  will be expected to explain what they have done as a volunteer and the insights they have gained into the profession. Some universities specify minimum periods of time they expect applicants  to have completed prior to making an application.
They  need as much relevant experience as possible.  Don’t just consider hospital or surgery placements (or vet practices) also consider working with people outside their normal contact areas – children, the elderly, people with mental health problems, the terminally ill, people with disabilities, the homeless, asylum seekers etc. They will primarily be working with people (animals) so they need to have experience of as many different types as possible, especially the ones outside their comfort zone!  Such placements are more highly regarded than any length of time shadowing the professionals!
Students should consider voluntary groups and get involved, going once doesn’t count! They need to sort this out very early.

NURSING, MIDWIFERY & ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

All healthcare professional courses will require an interview where they will be expected to discuss their insights into and experience of their chosen professional area.  Some will specify a minimum period of work experience.  It must be a priority to gain experience of communicating in a healthcare setting with a range of client groups.
Physiotherapy continues to be one of the most competitive courses to apply for so getting work experience is essential.  Most jobs are within the NHS so they should be aiming for experience there – even if they are considering working within the sports industry.

TEACHING

For Primary courses it’s a good idea to have both upper and lower primary experience so they can explain why they have chosen a particular age group.  Summer play schemes are also a great way to get experience with children – contact your local council to find out when they take place.  For Primary Education there is no longer a requirement to have studied a National Curriculum subject at A level.

MEDIA/JOURNALISM

When applying for these types of courses they are competing with students who may have worked for the college/school magazine, radio or TV.  You will also get applicants who have volunteered for hospital radio or their local newspaper.  They must be proactive and find the opportunities where they can use their skills – it’s a tough industry to get into.

LAW

Whilst shadowing a Barrister could be seen as one type of work experience, they still need to show that they have experienced various roles within Law.  Shadow a solicitor, make a visit to the local court.  Use this time to find out exactly what is really involved.

ENGINEERING

There are many different fields in Engineering and by undertaking work experience it demonstrates they have gained a thorough insight and understanding of their chosen field.

VOLUNTARY WORK

This is a great way for students to improve their skills, help others and try something new.  Whatever they do it will look great on their CV/University application.  Volunteers are people with motivation, dedication and the ability to work hard.  Being a volunteer is fun! it will give them a sense of personal achievement, development and satisfaction.  They will also gain ‘soft skills’ which employers value such as team work, communication, develop initiative, problem solving and time management.