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

If you're a small business, sole trader or freelancer, you can still offer a dynamic experience for students through an industry placement.

You’ll need to decide on the best delivery approach and 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 training and guidance
  • insurance

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

Decide on the best delivery approach

There are several different options which my make it easier for you to deliver a placement as a small business, sole trader or freelancer. These delivery approaches allow you to collaborate with other employers, take students into your workplace for some but not all of the placement hours, and link the placement to part-time work that students do. Look at the various approaches and decide whether any of them:

  • are applicable to the placement
  • would benefit the student.

Find out more about delivery approaches 

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


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.  You may be able to use the ‘Hybrid (remote) placement’ approach to give students the option of working on their provider’s premises or, in special circumstances, from their own homes. This approach is restricted to specific T Levels. 

Support with industry placements

Every student is enrolled with a training provider who will support you through the placement. You'll fin that providers are very familiar with the paperwork and aspects of placements such as health and safety. 

Find out more about how industry placements work

Sharing a placement

There are several different types of delivery model that are designed to meet the needs of different employers. Placement hours can be split between two employers meaning that you can still offer a placement opportunity even if you don't think you can cover the minimum 315 hours

The provider 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 provider 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 bite-sized opportunity instead?

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

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 with 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. 

Find out more about work tasters


Small team projects

It may be possible for students to spend some of their placement time outside your organisation carrying out projects in small teams with their peers, alongside another employer or professional. Your provide will advise you whether this is suitable for your student.


Industry placement examples for smaller businesses


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 in design and manufacturing, 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 her business administration. She works from home and doesn’t have an office. One 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, by 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.


A small specialist construction company

A construction company specialising in building sustainable homes using a revolutionary modular design, offered a number of students construction industry placements.

The company worked with a key partner in their supply chain; responsible for manufacturing the sustainable paints to allow the students to see the breadth of components and specialist manufacturing processes involved in such developments.


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


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