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Work Experience at the University

Fundamentally, the University of Reading does not exist for its own sake and its purpose is not its own improvement, but for the betterment of others. This can extend beyond staff, students and alumni to members of the local community that would benefit from work experience opportunities at the University.

Schools and Directorates that can accommodate work experience placements are free to do so, but it is essential that arrangements are made that:

  1. comply with all relevant legislation
  2. guarantee the placements are in addition to existing or planned vacancies and that no-one has been dismissed or made redundant so the placement can be offered

Any placements undertaken with persons aged under 18, must follow the information found on  Protecting Young Workers that brings together safeguarding and legislation requirements for this age group in the workplace.

What the work experience participant gains from the placement

All work experience participants will be volunteers who have demonstrated a genuine interest in gaining work experience within the University. Although they will have little or no recent work experience and may have limited skills they will be motivated and willing to learn. They will use this opportunity to demonstrate what they can already achieve and some of the benefits for them will include the following:

  • gaining experience of going into a work environment and learning about the demands and etiquette involved in day-to-day work
  • learning new skills or updating current skills to meet the needs of a fast-moving modern workplace
  • building overall confidence, motivation and well-being
  • populating their CV with what they have learnt and therefore demonstrate their commitment to finding work to potential employers
  • a better understanding of the job market so that they can make informed decisions when finding work
  • demonstrating a willingness to learn new skills
  • moving closer to training, apprenticeships or employment

Supporting participants

The key principle for supporting participants during the placement should be to treat them as regular employees as far as possible, but recognise that, given their lack of work experience, they might need some additional coaching and supervision. You will need to consider who in your department will be responsible for supervising a participants throughout their work experience.

Below you’ll find some suggestions about things you may want to consider when planning the placement to help both you and the participant get the most from the experience.


A good induction will help participants to settle into the working environment and your department. We recommend that participants’ inductions closely mirror those of new permanent employees so they get a sense of what it would be like to be a real new starter. However, since some participants may be completely new to the world of work or been out of the workplace for some time, you may have to provide some additional coaching, for example how to set up meetings on Outlook, use a photocopier or how to address customers.

A model induction would cover:

  • management reporting arrangements
  • an introduction to colleagues
  • an overview of your business and its values
  • a tour around the workplace
  • guidance on using any specialist equipment
  • standard workplace practices such as health and safety issues, security procedures, dress code, sickness and absence arrangements, and break times


If a Campus Card is required to give the work experience placement holder access to a building then the manager can set up an ‘external account’ on MyID [DTS User Account Management]. Once this is set up, a Campus Card can be issued by HR in Room 110, Whiteknights House.

If they report absence

If the work experience placement is supported by an educational establishment (such as a school or FE College), then the absence needs to be fed back to them. It may be the work experience placement is supported by a local charity, in these cases, it would be helpful to feedback to them to the point of contact that has been shared with you.

Regular feedback and exit interviews

Constructive, honest and supportive feedback will encourage participants to reflect on their performance, value their achievements and identify areas for improvement.

It may be appropriate to ask participants to keep a record of their progress to help them consolidate their learning. A discussion at the end of the placement would provide a more formal opportunity to provide final feedback and also give you the opportunity to ask participants how future placements could be improved.

It can be helpful to provide participants with a reference at the end of the placement that they can use in their future job applications.

Mentoring and buddying

Many organisations who offer work experience assign participants mentors or buddies who act as a role model and ‘first friend’ in the organisation.

This is a particularly effective way of easing the transition into the working world. Mentors and buddies should be good listeners and able to relate to people with differing needs.


It may be useful for a participant to shadow different members of staff to gain an insight into the variety of roles within your area. Shadowing should not be the only activity participants undertake during the placement – in order to gain an insight into realistic work, it is vital that you give participants a chance to get involved in real on-the-job activities.