Connecting education and employment

Aarti Jaswal

Aarti Jaswal is Education Development Trust's National Work-Related Learning Manager. She channels her passion for working with young people by bringing together employers, schools and colleges to ensure students have meaningful, formative and inspirational encounters with employers that will shape their future. Here she emphasises why she thinks work-related learning is essential for our students.

I can distinctly remember my 'work experience': a week working in different departments at Hounslow Council. It was something of a rushed, scrabbled decision and one borne out of convenience rather than to fulfil a long-held desire to work for my local council! I knew I didn’t want to work in the Planning Department for the rest of my life but even so, even though it was last-minute and ill thought-through, memories of my week of sampling the world of work have stayed with me and I learnt things that I could never get from the classroom.

A golden opportunity

Imagine the potential of that experience if, as a student, you had someone to carefully plan the encounter with you, that you could use the opportunity to explore something that might not be fully formed yet in your mind – it's a golden opportunity to get a taster of a possible career.

I have been working with schools, colleges and employers to set up work experience placements for nearly 3 years in London. Highlights include a student with special educational needs who spent a week with Transport for London and declared it simply the best week of his life; others have gone on to be offered apprenticeships from their placement hosts.

Secrets of success

For me and my team, the successful matching of student and employer is down to a lot of factors. We manage and nurture a network of some 3,800 employers with roughly 1,000 'live' at any one time; last academic year, we engineered 1,784 placements with 788 employers. We know the right questions to ask of students to help frame their thoughts and we listen.

Our success is down to the support and level of service that we give to our employers, schools and colleges. We invest heavily in our employer relations – it is very unusual for schools and colleges to be able to have the same reach on their own – so that the placements we set up provide real benefit to students and can be potentially life changing. We do everything to ensure that the placement is mutually beneficial; employers can source and shape future talent and students can gain invaluable practical, social and emotional skills.

Influencing young people's decisions

The work placement isn't the be all and end all for us; we set up mock interviews, arrange careers fairs as well as employer talks. All of these so-called touchpoints – where students get to meet employers – can have a profoundly positive effect on young people, helping them to focus their studies and influence their decisions.

I passionately believe that something as seemingly simple as a work placement can change a young person’s life. With the right careful planning and support, students get a glimpse into a different world. And if it captures their imagination? It could be the beginning of something.