Finding and arranging high quality placements, however, can be a time-consuming process. We’ve put together this short guide to make life easier for teachers with responsibility for work experience at their school or college but the information it contains will also be useful for students and parents interested in arranging their own placements.

Applying directly to a national organisation

Many well-known large businesses such as Tesco, Pizza Express and HSBC operate their own work experience programmes for school and college students. It’s not just commercial organisations which operate such programmes, larger charities and public sector organisations will often have their own schemes, too.

The easiest way to find out whether an organisation operates its own work experience programme is by searching for the name of the business online followed by the words work experience. This will direct you to a page on their website, explaining how students should go about applying for a placement.

Some businesses run work experience programmes in partnership with other businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Barclays, for example, encourages other businesses to offer placements via its Life Skills platform and provides a wide range of use resources for students, parents and teachers.

Specialist work experience websites

While it’s always advisable to start by searching directly for work experience placements, it can also be worthwhile visiting specialist work experience sites. On the Success at School and Student ladder websites, for example, you will find placements covering every part of the country, alongside lots of practical careers advice.

Success at School

Student Ladder


Contacting local small businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses (often referred to as SMEs) account for 60% of all private sector employment in the UK so you shouldn’t rule them out as a source of work experience placements.

Placements with smalls businesses can give students valuable  experience of different aspects of a business and insights into what it takes to run a successful business. The challenges for schools and colleges is to efficiently find out which small businesses are happy to offer work experience placements.

Small businesses are likely to prefer speculative applications from students themselves but there are things you can do (besides advising students on their applications) to help them increase their odds of success.

The first thing to do is to ask your colleagues, friends and family members who live locally if they know of any small businesses that would be happy to host a student. You’ll be surprised what you discover this way. Armed with this information, you can encourage your students to focus their efforts on businesses that are open to offering placements.

Another thing you can do is contact your local Federation of Small Businesses. Your local branch may hold details of which of its members currently offer work experience placements or be willing to forward your request for placements to its members.

Work experience opportunities at Groundwork

Groundwork is a charity working to transform lives in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities. At Groundwork we’re passionate about creating a future where everywhere is vibrant and green, every community is strong and able to shape its own destiny and where everyone can reach their potential. We help people gain confidence and skills, get into training and work, protect and improve green spaces, lead more active lives and overcome significant challenges such as poverty, isolation, low skills and poor health.

Many of our local Groundwork Trusts offer volunteering and work experience opportunities. Contact your local Groundwork to see how they can help you.

Note: This guide has been written to support college or school staff that are helping students find work experience placements.

If you are a student looking for your own placement you can find a guide to arranging your own placement here. If you have already left education you can find a guide for school leavers here.