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How sole traders, micro businesses or freelancers can get involved in industry placements

Can I offer industry placements?

Yes – smaller businesses, sole traders and freelancers can offer a dynamic experience for students.

You’ll need to organise:

  • time to set up the placement and supervise the student
  • enough work for the student to make it worthwhile
  • space for the student to work safely
  • equipment to carry out the tasks
  • health and safety
  • insurance

Health and safety

Under health and safety law, students are employees – treat them like any other young people you employ. Employer liability insurance covers placements provided your insurer is a member of the association of British insurers or Lloyds. Find out more on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Space

If you work in a shared space with other companies or start-ups, they may be able to help with health and safety requirements and insurance.

If you can’t physically fit another person in, one of your clients or business contacts may have free space and equipment. Students may be able to bring compatible devices from their provider.

Support with industry placements

Every student is enrolled with a college, school or other type of education or training provider who will support you through the placement.

Colleges and schools are very familiar with the paperwork and aspects of placements such as health and safety. 

Sharing a placement

If you are interested in sharing a placement with a similar employer, let the college or school know and they may be able to organise a shared placement, so that each employer takes on part of the time.

For example, in construction, students can complete a Commercial, Charitable or Community Project for a maximum of 105 hours and then the rest of the placement with another employer. In Construction, and Engineering and Manufacturing, students can spend a maximum of 105 hours of their placement within an already-established Skills Hub or Training Centre.

The college or school will do their best to be flexible and to meet your business needs.

I want to offer a placement, but don’t have enough work to cover the minimum of 315 hours.
The college or school can help find another employer for you to share the placement with.

I’m a specialist, so it’s unlikely I’ll have the breadth of work to suit the student.
You can be paired up with another organisation that covers the things you don’t.

I work with a bigger organisation and we want to offer an opportunity between us.
They could organise the placement and you could provide opportunities for the student to work with you on a specific project, or projects.

Find out more about sharing a placement with another employer

Work tasters

If a full or shared placement isn’t possible, how about offering a more bite-sized opportunity?

Students can attend ‘work tasters’ up to a maximum of 35 hours. Could you offer a short taster - for the student to learn one or two specialised skills, for example?

Or could they ‘work shadow’ you, so they get a better feel for the kind of work you do? You could also build in visits to clients and suppliers to broaden the experience.

You might want to try a taster first, and then offer a longer placement afterwards if it works out.

Industry placement examples for smaller businesses

Contents

A small engineering firm

A small engineering firm making components for vacuum cleaners teamed up with their main customer to offer a placement for a student.

The shared placement allowed the student to work in both businesses, designing and testing a new component. Workspace and equipment were provided by the larger business. The small engineering firm organised for the student to carry out field testing.

Between them, the 2 firms gave the student valuable experience of design and manufacture – and the smaller firm benefited during the crucial testing phase.

A garden designer

A garden designer with a full order book wanted to offer a placement to help with their administration. She works from home and doesn’t have an office. 1 of her clients is a company managing a large business park.

Together the garden designer and business park manager put together a placement where the student worked in the office on the business park while carrying out admin projects for the designer.

A small independent theatrical production organisation

A small independent theatrical production organisation offered a theatrical and media hair and make-up student a placement.

Although there were initial challenges with regard to evening working hours, this was resolved between the student and employer reaching an agreement, facilitated by the college. The student was able to develop complex technical skills in making wigs and costumes and the company reported that it was a pleasure to host her.

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