Reflections on Work Experience

Year 11 are out on work experience this week.  It’s a double-edged sword for teachers: we’re pleased to have a little breathing space but concerned about the time they spend out of lessons.

Work experience, if it goes well, can be memorable and beneficial.  When I was at school we did 3 weeks in year 10 and I went to the local sailmakers, Hood in Lymington.  They’re no longer there but this more recent image from Sanders Sails in the same town shows the interior of a sail loft.

My students last week were horrified to learn that for the 3 weeks I was on work experience I had to be in work at 8am and didn’t finish until 5:30pm.  The siren at Berthon Boat Yard that signified the start and end of the working day still echoes round the town now.  I had a 15 minute break morning and afternoon and half an hour for lunch.

Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As the most junior person there I had to sweep the floor every morning but was also taught how to use the enormous and high-speed sewing machines and by the end of my time could sew a reasonably straight seam up a 10m main sail.  Spinnakers were a different matter.  I also used the laser cutter to cut sail parts and numbers.  They were kind enough to give me the pattern to make a sail for my own little Cadet dinghy and I made it, completely by myself!

I was looked after by a girl who left school the year above me with minimal qualifications and was doing well as a machinist.  She took me under her wing and we went back to her house at lunchtimes in a cloud of cigarette smoke (hers not mine).

I enjoyed it so much there (I was a 15 year old sailing nut which helped) that I asked for a Saturday job there.  I knew at that age I wanted to go to university and do a professional job but those 3 weeks at Hoods were an eye opener into the world of work and one I remember fondly.

Nowadays work experience is shorter and more formalised (probably rightly so).  Students only do a week and are generally shown around the whole company.  We’ve had students blog from their time at St. David’s Hall and Western Power recently.  I hope they all enjoy it and make the most of this unique experience!


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