Common questions about Education and Early Years industry placements

This article looks at some of the questions that employers offering Education and Early Years industry placements are facing and possible solutions.

Finding students

How can we find placement students with suitable skills and attitudes?

The starting point is a clear specification for the student including:

  • what your organisation does, its values, and anything else which might help bring your work to life for the student, such as what a typical project looks like
  • a short role description for the placement, what’s going to be involved, listing projects, activities, and responsibilities

Ask the school or college you are working with for details of the students’ course content, what they will be learning and when. Ideally, placements will be timed to fit with the course so that skills learned in the classroom can be put into practice when you need them.

Early Years Educator industry placement students will need to start their placement early in Year 1 of their course where assessment is carried out in the workplace. It will be important for you to liaise with the school or college early in your planning for industry placements so that the course work and placement work will align.

You might ask the school or college to have students prepare evidence of their skills, such as a project they have completed on child development or learning skills at different ages.

Consider running a light-touch recruitment process. You can ask students for a CV, perhaps offering them a template to complete, and you can carry out short interviews either on-site, at the student’s school or college, or perhaps online.

Some young people may have some anxiety about taking an industry placement, so do consider what you can do to help them feel relaxed, so they can do their best during the recruitment process. You can talk to unsuccessful applicants, to give feedback and encourage them.

When you have identified the right students, agree clear learning goals with them and their school or college that link your role specification to their course.

Ready for the workplace

How can I help prepare placement students for the workplace?

Firstly, as part of their transition to the world of work, it’s going to be important that students are aware of the standards you expect. You could:

  • visit the school or college for a short Q&A session with prospective students so you can explain how you work
  • put together a short briefing for students about how you work
  • work with the school or college to recruit students who are likely to fit with your ways of working
  • invite a group of prospective students to visit your site

The school or college will work with students to prepare them for the workplace. If you want to feed into this process, your input will be very helpful and welcomed.

Students need to be made aware of the professional behaviour, language and communication you expect, which may be very different to their experiences with their peers or with social media.

Having said that, if students can’t relate to your culture or ways or working, they could disengage and not complete their placement, so a gradual, realistic, sympathetic approach is going to help.

Time getting students up to speed

When students arrive, we’ll have to spend a lot of time getting them up to speed.

In many environments, induction for industry placement students is identical to full-time staff induction. Many organisations use online, digital and eLearning resources for induction, which could be suitable for students.

You could also offer relevant pre-briefing information about your organisation, perhaps visiting students at their school or college before the placement, so they’re better prepared when they start.

The school or college will work with you before the placement so that all parties (you, the student and the school or college) understand their responsibilities and make sure expectations are aligned. All of you will need to sign an Industry Placement Agreement.

Supporting students

We’re a small organisation. What if we don’t really have the capacity to host a placement for the minimum required total of 315 hours and for the 750 hours required for Early Years educator T Level placements?

You can share a placement with 1 other employer to make up a complete placement of at least 315 hours.

Both employers would need to agree, not only how they would split and organise the dates, days and hours, but also a combined and integrated package of appropriate projects and activities which will properly support the student’s development objectives as a whole. For example, a primary school who works with a partner to provide breakfast and after-school clubs could be interested in sharing a placement student who will be able to see the links between how the school and the school club provider operates.

In Early Years settings, the longer placement requirement will give you, the student and the setting’s children continuity and familiarity. The student can be trained up over the time to become more productive, assisting the setting practitioners to support the development of the children.

You can also share an Early Years educator placement with other employers to make up a complete placement of 750 hours. To allow students to gain the experience and relevant occupationally specific skills, the number of employers in this case can exceed 2. It is likely that industry placements will start earlier in Year 1 of the student’s course to be able to fit in the required number of hours for this placement type.

If you can’t find a partner organisation, and are facing this kind of capacity issue, you can approach the student’s school or college for help. They may be able to broker a shared placement with other employers.

Capacity to host a student

How can I support and guide students during their placements?

Students often have a natural ability to relate to children but will need support with professional issues, so they will require supervision and demonstration of techniques.

You could begin by allowing students to observe and work alongside your staff. This gives you a chance to get to know their capabilities and interests and allows students to understand the way you work. Over time you will be able to give them work to do that will make a more significant contribution to your business.

Some students may need time to adjust to the transition from school or college to a work environment. Providing a mentor can be a good way to support students with support and advice on issues wider than just their roles and responsibilities. This doesn’t have to be a manager or supervisor.

In a smaller organisation, it might not be practical to involve 2 people, but ideally a placement works best if this is possible. Effective mentoring for industry placement students sets out a model for mentoring and describes the characteristics of an effective mentor. It is worth noting that being involved with mentoring placement students can be an excellent development opportunity for existing staff.

Legal requirements

How will we meet legal requirements for any prospective placement students (for example, DBS checks)?

The student’s school or college is responsible for the safeguarding and welfare of students on industry placements. They need your cooperation and you will need to be sure that minimum requirements for your setting will be met. You can work with the school to ensure the relevant checks have been carried out in advance of students starting industry placements with your organisation.

Students will need to have an enhanced DBS check before starting placements in a nursery, school or college which involve teaching, training, instruction or providing guidance to children on a regular basis. There are some exceptions, for example if the activities are being provided to 16 or 17 year olds or if the recruiting organisation decides the student is sufficiently supervised in line with statutory guidance.

Conducting a DBS check is not a legal requirement; however, employers are legally obliged to ensure anyone working in their setting in a regulated activity with children has not been barred from doing so. See legal compliance for more information.

Organising and giving feedback

How do I organise and give feedback to placement students? Do I need to assess students at the end of their placement?

The student’s school or college will make arrangements for a minimum of 3 review meetings with you and the student during their placement, to allow students to reflect on their personal and technical development. The final meeting is the end-of-placement review and will be part of confirming that the student has completed their placement.

Usually at least 2 of the meetings will be face-to-face although they can be conducted virtually or by phone if appropriate and safe. The school or college you’re working with can advise you on any progress indicators that they will be using and will manage the paperwork. Formal review points can be supplemented with less formal contact time appropriate to each student.

For Early Years students, an important part of their assessment process involves evaluating skills in real working situations. Workplace visits may coincide with assessments and/or observations carried out as part of the assessment requirements and may exceed the expected minimum of 3 visits for industry placements.

Some course content will be assessed in the workplace, so you will need to work closely with the school or college and the student to ensure that the placement work aligns with their learning goals based on the occupational specialism they have chosen.

Remember for many students this may be their first experience of the world or work and as such, a testimonial from you at its conclusion is likely to assist their career development and add value to job applications.

If you're interested in offering an industry placement, get in touch with T Level providers near you

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