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!