Thursday, 24 January 2008

Work Experience - starting younger than usual - but is it too young?

Day One: Our two Interns meet the Hon. Minister
Students at one of our small high schools started a 'home grown' programme last year called 'Learning Through Internship' (LTI) where their 13 and 14 year old students spend several hours each week at work for three months. In this years programme which has just started I again host two students in the Ministry and we try to ensure that they get a real positive, varied but demanding experience of what work is like.

The programme worked really well last year and several students got offered part time jobs. Additionally companies offered additional training with a number of students really improving their work ethic and attitude at school, apparently as a direct result of this programme.

Students undertaking this experience are younger than is the norm. Traditionally students are 15 / 16 when they do work experience and some colleagues have expressed the view that students following the LTI programme are too young and don't get enough out of it.

I really do not agree with this view - students are maturing earlier, they do want to know the reality of work and practical experiential learning is the best way to achieve this. This carefully planned experience is linked to record keeping, research, journals and a range of business organisation questions to answer. The students with me are keeping their records electronically via personal blogs with hyperlinks to all sorts of resources.

Inevitably there may be a minority of students who make mistakes, but the more of this type of experience where students can see the relevance of their learning and the reasons certain decisions are made the better! Equally - the earlier the better.

One teacher noted that it may undermine the block work experience students do in later years - I suggest just the opposite. Students will be more informed, better prepared and increasingly aware. What MAY need to happen is that employers and the teachers have to have higher expectations of what the students are capable of doing. This is not child minding but developing our future young people and workforce! 'Same old, same old' or 'this is what we do (and have done for decades)' just does not cut it anymore!

As a highlight, our two interns unexpectedly ended up meeting the Hon. Minister on their first day as he came by to ask a question. Manners, attitude and speech were absolutely superb from both. Who says our young people can't do it?

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