Education and Childcare industry placements after coronavirus (COVID-19)
Industry placements have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and as we come out of lockdown it is important that more become available to meet demand from T Level students and to create the pipeline of talent required by the sector.
There are well established protocols for working safely in education settings including early years and childcare and these are equally applicable to industry placement students without the need for additional considerations.
The benefits of hosting industry placements
Offering industry placements can create a win-win situation for all involved. Students get the opportunity to learn skills and gain real experience of work, try out the role and add exciting content to their CV.
You, as the employer, benefit from a talent pool of young, enthusiastic individuals, who have tested their career choice and so could become valuable members of your future workforce. Ways in which industry placements have been useful include:
Supporting a high-quality experience for children
Accessing additional resource will assist you in supporting and maintaining the quality of provision for children and will enhance your reputation. Students are eager to learn from you and your team. Supporting their growth and development will in turn support you by providing extra resource to help children in your care achieve and thrive.
“We encourage our students to start off using our materials so they can see how they work before they create their own. If our students have got an idea, I ask them to bring their suggestions to me. I always encourage students to come up with their own ideas about things which we can discuss as part of our team working”.
White Road Preschool
Developing your talent pipeline
By offering industry placements you’ll see potential future employees in action. They will recognise and value your investment in their learning and skills and this is very likely to be repaid in loyalty to you and your sector, making future recruitment both time and cost effective.
“T Levels and industry placements provide us with a fantastic opportunity to influence and develop our workforce of the future. 30% of our existing staff started on placements where they were able to see our ethos and ways of working. This home-grown workforce shares our values and understands our priorities. Staff turnover is very low as a result”.
Selby Cottage Childcare Centre
Developing new projects
During the pandemic educational settings have had to concentrate on many additional challenges and considerations and adapt to the guidelines for safe working. Sometimes this will have been to the detriment of planned projects that would enhance the setting.
If you have projects like this an industry placement student could offer the opportunity to get them moving again.
Diversifying your team
An industry placement student can bring new perspectives to your business. They are young, familiar with new technologies, adaptable and entering a workplace shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic and so not fazed by requirements that may seem strange to existing staff.
They are also supported by a learning provider with up-to-date resources. Offering a placement is a fantastic way to add new, creative, adaptable and diverse talent to your team.
Reviewing the requirements of the post COVID-19 workforce
Introducing an industry placement may give you the chance to reflect upon the health and safety processes that you have implemented to date. Things are changing all the time, and this may provide a welcome review of your COVID-19 safety measures. This will be supported by the learning provider through the mandatory risk assessment of the placement that they will provide.
“We have remained open for key workers' children throughout the pandemic. Students were not on placement during this time but are now returning. We induct and re-induct them on COVID-19 secure processes and are regularly audited to ensure we provide a COVID-19 safe environment for all”.
Selby Cottage Childcare Centre
Early years and childcare industry placement flexibilities
Placements can be split across more than 2 employers if that helps to facilitate work placements and to ensure that students gain experience across the age ranges (0-5 & 5-7).
Work taster activities. All T Level students are allowed to do up to a maximum of 35 hours of work taster activities which can be counted towards students’ total number of placement hours, as long as these are relevant to the occupational specialisms within the student's T Level. These can be used to help employers assess a learner’s suitability before committing to a placement and to help students make a more informed decision when choosing their specialism.
There is supplementary learning that can be included within the Education and Childcare T Level. It‘s worth discussing with the education provider whether it would be beneficial for industry placement students to have done this prior to starting their first or second placement:
DBS basic/ enhanced checks and disqualified disclosure: this check should be completed before the placement where required.
Food and hygiene: for the Early Years Educator occupational specialism only: dependent on nature of placement/occupation it may be beneficial to undertake a relevant food and hygiene qualification/training.
Safeguarding training: providers should ensure relevant safeguarding is covered before the placement takes place. Anyone in an education establishment would also be required to undertake annual safeguarding training.
“Working in a close relationship with our local college we carry out interviews with potential students. Safeguarding is our priority, and we need to ensure that we are fully prepared to support any students prior to their placements being agreed. DBS checking is done by the college however students are never left on their own with our children in any of the areas within or outside our buildings”.
White Road Preschool
Case study: Nightingale nursery
Nightingale Nursery has 13 staff and have always been involved with offering high-quality learning opportunities through work experience and placements. They recognise this as an excellent way of attracting a pipeline of diverse talented individuals to the organisation and the sector. The students arrive as a blank canvas but add to the variety of staff and therefore enhance the experience of the nursery for the children.
The nursery has identified some critical factors for successful industry placements, these include:
- Working with a range of providers to introduce a wide variety of students.
- Planning a detailed introduction to the workplace which includes a meeting prior to the start date to get to know one another, a detailed induction to include introductions to all staff, the children and their parents, providing opportunities to plan, develop and implement learning activities for the children whilst being supervised and the provision of high-quality training and additional courses such a paediatric first aid.
- Weekly reviews for two-way communication on progress.
Students have commented on how much they learn through the hands-on approach, bringing their knowledge to life and providing an insight to the wider sector. Many have gone on to management, nursing or midwifery as well as nursery nursing.
T Levels and industry placements are an ideal way to bring in, nurture and support talented students with a view to retaining the links and gaining the workforce of the future.
Myth busting – Why you CAN offer an industry placement
You may well be enthusiastic to engage with T Levels and offer industry placements but others in your organisation may need convincing. Here are ways to help you to dispel common barriers and myths.
“We don’t have the time or capacity to offer industry placements”
Even if you are unable to offer industry placements right now, there are still ways to engage with T Level industry placements to plan and benefit from future placements.
- Work with your local provider to understand their offer and begin to design a potential industry placement opportunity and role description.
- Prepare staff by identifying potential line managers and mentors who may benefit from the opportunity of supporting a placement student.
- Map the peaks and troughs of your working cycle to try and identify when might be best to start an industry
- Think about projects or commissions where additional capacity may be advantageous.
“We don’t have enough experienced or qualified staff to mentor industry placements”
Mentoring an industry placement student does not have to be undertaken by the person line managing the placement, in fact it can be beneficial to have distinct separation of the two roles.
Mentoring can provide a great development opportunity for any staff member just beginning or wanting to progress to a supervisory role. The mentoring role can be shared by more than one member of staff. If you have apprentices, they can also be very effective mentors as they are likely to have recent, shared experience.
Mentors don’t need to be from the same skill area or occupational pathway as their students and so can support industry placements from any part of the organisation.
“Covid- safe working practices are preventing us from offering placements”
Social distancing and safe working practices need to be considered but should not prevent industry placements from being offered. Students will be trained in the Covid safe working practices required in education settings before starting a placement.
“We struggle to find meaningful work for unskilled students to do”
Students will have been taught a number of basic skills during their T Level teaching and so will not enter the workplace totally “green”. As well as making sure that students are equipped with the technical knowledge and skills, they will be suitably prepared to enter the workplace. This will involve the development of employability skills and a good understanding of the professional standards of behaviour and attitudes before they go on their industry placement. By working with the education provider in advance of the placement they can support student readiness in line with your precise needs to enable the student to ‘hit the ground running’ when they join you.
“Working in bubbles prevents us from including placement students”
The government guidance for early years providers in England has changed, to minimise the need for smaller bubbles within early years settings. That said, groupings or bubbles will be in operation. Bringing a student into the workplace will require the same checks as bringing in other members of staff in terms of COVID testing, temperature checks, etc. Providing a block placement may be preferable to a day release model to create continuity and consistency within a group or bubble.
Considerations for industry placements and COVID-19 safety
Industry placement students will have been trained in COVID-19 safe working practices but, as with any staff, emphasising prevention by minimising contact with people showing symptoms, wearing PPE when appropriate, regular hand washing / sanitizing, cleaning of frequently touched areas and equipment, good respiratory hygiene, social distancing and good ventilation, is important.
There is no requirement for additional risk assessments for industry placement students as long as the UK Government guide to safe working in education, childcare and children’s social settings is being followed.
It is important to discuss the risks of COVID-19 with students, parents/ carers and provider’s staff ahead of the placement. This could be evidenced by adding a note to that effect to the T Level Industry Placement Agreement and your training provider will do this for you. Talk to your provider about including a COVID-19 section in the student workbook or industry placement log.
If a student or supervisor becomes ill
If a student becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms or has a positive COVID-19 test they should return or remain at home and follow the NHS guidance. The student will still be required to complete their industry placement hours and so the education provider will work with you to organise another time for the student to return and complete the planned placement hours before they finish their qualification. If it fits with your business need then this could include weekends or “college holidays” or in exceptional circumstances be added to the end of their learning programme.
If the student’s supervisor is off sick, then try and reallocate their industry placement responsibilities to another appropriate member of staff until they return to work. If it is likely to impact on the nature of the placement, or will be long term, then the education provider should be informed.
If there is an opportunity for the student to do paid part-time work and if this is related to the student’s occupational specialism, at Level 3, the hours can be counted towards industry placement hours.
As with all industry placements, students and employers sign an industry placement agreement and agree appropriate learning goals that must be used to measure the students’ progress. In addition, the roles and responsibilities of providers and employers set out in government guidance will still apply.
If the placement is not going well
If you feel that the placement is not going well and the student is not meeting any of the conditions set out in their industry placement agreement or where you have concerns about their progress, you should contact the provider to agree a course of action.
Providers will be expected to take action to resolve any issues quickly and with full transparency, so students are clear about their areas for improvement.