22 SES 02 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Work-based learning at higher education level is emerging as “a distinct field of practice and study supported by relevant pedagogies and concepts of curriculum”; universities are more than ever turning their attention to work experience and graduate employability (Lester and Costley, 2010, p. 561; HEFCE, 2003). There has, therefore, been a growing discourse on the value and appropriateness of employability and work-based learning both at the levels of policy and practice (Boden and Nedeva, 2010; Cranmer 2006; Moreau and Leathwood, 2007).
The aim of this research was to achieve a broad-based picture that informs understanding of the student experience - outside of the more traditional year-long sandwich/internship convention and the subjects that have long been associated with it (E.g. Business, Engineering, Health, Languages). Research relating to work experience and placements at higher education level focuses on longer term internships and sandwich courses where undergraduate students might take up to a year out of their studies to work within a business or organisation that meets their career aspirations and expectations.
Further, research (Lester and Costley, 2010) exists on work-based learning that may be in some way accredited at higher education level, however, the focus of this type of learning is directed towards employees that wish to see their work recognised, rather than undergraduate or postgraduate students that are looking to undertake work experience as part of their studies.
The placement experience in this research falls within Brennan and Little’s “Short Project” category of “experience-led work based learning” (1996, p.7). Whilst the authors set out seven levels ranging from “brief encounter” to “Continuing Professional Development”, they also give suggestions on what subject areas utilise different placement types. The social sciences generally and undergraduate education studies specifically are not represented in many older studies and appear to feature relatively little in subsequent research. This paper, therefore, aims to shed light on an under-researched aspect of work experience at higher education level and in a different subject area.
The research presented in this paper is derived from a much shorter placement programme that second year undergraduate students undertake and forms part of a credited-bearing module (unlike “The great majority.. not accredited or otherwise formally recognised” Lester and Costley, 2010, p.562). Thus, being accredited, the programme of study follows Duignan’s (2002) recommendation for a “formal-structure” model of placement, as opposed to a laissez-faire approach. The placement forms part of an undergraduate programme for students interested in Education Studies, Childhood Studies and Special Needs and Inclusion. Typically, many of these students are interested in taking up careers in education-related areas, although not exclusively teaching. However, many taking the course will be considering whether to undertake postgraduate training and obtaining Qualified Teacher Status.
The aim of the research was to develop an understanding of students’ motivations and experiences on a short and focussed work experience programme. As well as explore the student experience and how it relates to wider issues of support, implications for career guidance, and to what extent students benefit from the work placement
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