Should volunteering replace work experience?

Tes reports that this week, the government pledged to link pupils with employers. But education organisations argue that social action, rather than work experience, is the best way to provide the skills that employers really want.

Throughout his undergraduate degree in biomedical science, Neil Gilbride had flirted with the idea of working in education. Three days after his final exam, he walked into a job as a parent-support worker.

“This was during the financial crisis,” Gilbride says. “But I could say I’d been working with children with special educational needs – and with their families – for about five years. And I could say that with legitimacy.”

“By the time I was 19, I could say I’d been working in special educational needs for three years,” he says. “I’d line-managed. I’d helped develop other people in the team. You can’t get that from work experience.”

This week, the Department for Education announced that it would provide £5 million to create 20 “careers hubs” across the country, linking schools and colleges with local universities and employers.

Secondary schools will be expected to provide pupils with at least one “meaningful interaction” with businesses each year. The DfE will also allocate £2 million to pilot ways of increasing awareness among primary-school children of the range of careers available to them.

But many in education are questioning whether traditional interactions with businesses – such as work experience – are in fact the best way to provide pupils with the skills and experience that employers are looking for. 

In fact, youth-volunteering charity V-Inspired is arguing that pupils might be better-served by undertaking a sustained period of social-action work.

Read more pros and cons of  replacing work experience with volunteering Should volunteering replace work experience?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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