You don't need to wait until you leave sixth form or college to gain an insight into the world of work - A-level students can now join Year 12 work experience schemes run by many of the UK's biggest employers

What is Year 12 work experience?

Similar to the work experience opportunities available for university students and graduates, but generally shorter, these Year 12 and 13 programmes can help you to decide whether a career is right for you or just provide that much needed work experience to add to your CV.

This form of work experience, aimed at those aged 16 to 18 and studying their A-levels (or equivalent) at a school sixth form or further education (FE) college, typically involves:

  • doing a one or two-week work placement and completing a number of tasks
  • spending a period of time in one or more workplaces to see the jobs on offer
  • job shadowing someone to see what they do in their role and whether it appeals to you.

What are the benefits of gaining experience while at school?

By completing work experience in Year 12 or 13, you can:

Which employers offer Year 12 work experience?

Work placements are available across a range of industries, but they are most popular in the following areas:

  • accountancy
  • banking
  • engineering
  • finance
  • law
  • psychology
  • science
  • technology.

Many of the leading recruiters that run graduate schemes also offer early careers programmes for school leavers and above. This includes everything from degree apprenticeships to work experience for those still studying their A-levels.

Organisations currently advertising work experience include:

  • Deloitte - the financial services firm operates a range of early careers schemes, including the Career Shapers Year 12 programme. Over three days in February, school students will attend in person and discover more about leadership roles, taking on client projects, networking and attending skills sessions.
  • HSBC - the HSBC UK Work Experience Programme is for those in Year 10 through to Year 12 (S4 to S6 in Scotland) and is available across the UK. This unpaid programme is delivered across five days, with three held virtually and the other two in the office. Participants can choose a week from options in June, July or August, where you could be working in one of a number of business functions.
  • KPMG - aimed at Year 13 students coming to the end of their A-levels and thinking of doing an apprenticeship, Discovery Work Experience is an opportunity to gain professional experience, develop new skills and grow your network. This three-day paid programme takes place in a KPMG office and can give you an advantage if you plan to apply for an apprenticeship with the company.
  • NHS Business Services Authority - an NHS Year 12 work experience placement, based in Newcastle, is held in July. You'll get to work on a project in a non-clinical area of the NHS, such as digital, data and technology, people and corporate services, primary care services or finance, commercial and estates.
  • Nuffield - the Research Placements & Experience programme facilitates hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects with a host organisation. This takes the form of either a two-week placement, where you'll get to produce a scientific or technical report or poster, or a five-day exploration with an industry expert, which involves creating a workbook and reflective report in a specific STEM sector. Placements have previously been held with the Natural History Museum, University College London (UCL) and The University of Manchester.

A number of charities and professional bodies also fund project work for those still at school. For example, the British Science Association (BSA) oversees the CREST Awards. The Gold Awards are projects for those aged 16 and over and willing to commit to at least 70 hours' work to a STEM project.

By honing your investigative skills and adopting scientific methodology to carry out your research, you will receive a certificate, as well as being able to use the experience to enhance your personal statement when applying for university.

What about summer schools?

Some higher education institutions (HEIs) run pre-university summer schools, often in partnership with employers. These summer schools are typically residential in nature and held on campus over three or four days, or up to a full week.

For instance, you could be living in a halls of residence for the duration of the programme to get a taster for university life - see what you need to know about student accommodation.

Examples of universities that run summer schools include:

You can get an insight into a range of degree subjects, including:

  • art
  • business
  • design
  • engineering
  • healthcare
  • humanities and social science
  • international relations
  • law
  • psychiatry
  • science
  • sport
  • technology.

In addition to the work experience offered by universities themselves, organisations such as The Sutton Trust also advertise their own schemes. The UK Summer Schools programme is operated in partnership with a number of universities, including:

  • University of Bristol
  • Cardiff University
  • University College London (UCL)
  • University of Nottingham.

This week-long opportunity is available across the country, and you'll get to explore a subject of your choice alongside like-minded individuals.

As well as experiencing university life, you'll also benefit from:

  • academic taster sessions
  • skills sessions
  • expert guidance on applying for university
  • getting involved with social activities.

Is virtual work experience available?

You'll find that virtual work experience is offered either instead of or alongside these in-person opportunities, with many employers using a combination of approaches to deliver their insight and taster programmes.

To explore the range of virtual programmes, visit a dedicated provider such as Springpod, while Barclays LifeSkills provides a platform where you can learn where your skills would be most needed in the modern workplace, while getting to work on a real-life project.

The PwC Virtual Insight Programme gives students the chance to gain valuable skills while exploring their career interests. Whether you plan to do an apprenticeship or go to university, you can find out more about these pathways and where they could lead with this employer.

Held over three days, the interactive online sessions offer an insight into various business areas including audit, consulting, tax and technology. You'll also take part in skills sessions where you can build your personal and professional skills for when you're ready to apply for jobs and enter the workplace.

Am I eligible to apply?

While these programmes are generally open to A-level students across the UK, each organisation will have its own eligibility requirements.

For instance, Deloitte's Career Shapers is designed for students in:

  • Year 12 - England and Wales
  • Year 13 - Northern Ireland
  • S5 - Scotland.

They also expect applicants to be predicted a minimum of 104 UCAS Tariff points in their A-levels (or equivalent). See how to apply for university for the grades you'll need.

PwC's Virtual Insight Programme looks for students on course for 96 UCAS points across your top three A-levels (not including general studies or the extended project qualification).

The Sutton Trust's UK Summer Schools scheme is for students who attend a non-fee-paying public school and meet some of the following criteria:

  • the first generation in their family to go to university
  • have gained at least five GCSEs at grades 9-6, including maths and English, with two being at grades 9-7
  • received free school meals while attending secondary school
  • live in a neighbourhood with a low rate of progression to higher education
  • have been looked after or in care.

Where can I find and apply for these opportunities?

Many work placements are usually arranged by your school or college at local level in partnership with industry. For instance, placements are often available with your local authority in public services sector roles such as the arts, communications, planning, and environmental health.

Speak to your school or college's careers team to explore the latest opportunities.

There may also be the possibility of arranging your own placement, by applying to companies directly. Bear in mind that you'll need to work around your study commitments and be sure to keep your teachers informed of your plans.

For ideas of companies that may have their own work experience programmes, browse our employer profiles.

You can contact the employer through its website, by applying for a specific scheme.

Alternatively, you can make a speculative application by sending in your CV and cover letter to a named individual, explaining why you'd like to spend time working at their company and what you hope to gain from the experience. Read more about how to ask employers for work experience.

As summer schools are usually held between June and August, this shouldn't have an impact on your studies. You can apply online to universities of interest, including the list of institutions detailed above. Many applications open in the January of the year you plan to join the summer school, so it's advisable to look into this as early as possible.

Will I be paid for the work placement?

Most work experience schemes available to Year 12 and Year 13 students are unpaid, but there are exceptions.

KPMG's Discovery Work Experience is a paid in-person programme for Year 13 students where you'll be paid the National Living Wage (NLW) for your age. To work out how much you could earn, see GOV.UK - NMW and NLW rates.

In addition, the firm will also cover your travel expenses (up to £100 per day) while lunch is provided.

It's unlikely you'll be paid to attend a summer school, but many opportunities are free. For instance, The Sutton Trust's scheme covers all costs for the week, including your travel, food and accommodation expenses.

The University of Brighton's on-campus residential summer schools are also free and include accommodation and food, as well as the costs associated with any trips you'll be involved with.

Find out more

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