This was the message from education experts at the kick-off to the British Council School´s, Workshadowing Programme, which took place at the British Embassy in Spain. The programme, now in its 10th year, allows Secondary students to gain experience in specialist areas by placing them in a real working environment.
The Headmistress at the British Council School, Gillian Flaxman, thanked the companies involved as well as all the participants in the Workshadowing Programme. The programme is currently in its 10th year. This year´s kick-off took place at the British Embassy in Spain. Attending were, Directors from participating companies and students, all sharing their own experiences of the programme.
Ms Flaxman spoke about “how important it is to offer this kind of opportunity to youngsters at this moment in their lives, often so full of indecision”. “Experience tells us that it is not the same to want to study medicine or to spend a few days work experience in a hospital. This first experience in the job market has a profound influence on 14 to 16 year olds. It can encourage them to go on and study medicine at university or perhaps to choose pharmacy or biochemistry instead. But the point is that it helps them to be able to decide, which is important”, she explained.
“These work experience placements are both motivating and also a great opportunity for our students. For example, in British universities, a good “personal statement” is an important entry requirement and this kind of workshadowing experience is very well regarded”, she concluded.
The Workshadowing Programme is a British Council School initiative. Students, between the ages of 15 and 17, are able to get first-hand experience of what day to day life in their chosen career, might be like. The Programme was set up in 2009, the first of its kind in Spain. It acts as a bridge between our students and a variety of different companies. It helps students decide what they might study at university and where they might like to work when they finish their studies.
Stuart Percival, a Director at Clifford Chance, one of the companies which has participated in the scheme longest, explained how “satisfying it is to see, how increasingly well equipped each new cohort is. Sometimes they ask us questions which challenge our business thinking, so I think it motivates both the students and our own employees”.
Paula Espada, one of our students spoke about her experiences, in front of what was, a large audience of Madrid education and business experts. She explained: “It allowed me to ask myself questions and to be able to take decisions about my own future. My work experience was in a firm of solicitors and as a result, I now have a much clearer idea of what I want to do. It´s an amazing experience because it allows you to get right into a company, take part in meetings and talk to a lot of people...At the age of 16, and really, for the first time in my life, people who I looked up to, were asking me my opinion...they were asking ME! The Programme provides a different outlook on education and on working life and I think it should be available in all Schools”.
Over the last 10 years, around 1000 students have taken part in the British Council´s Workshadowing programme. They have been able to gain work experience in 250 participating companies, both national and international. Pamela O’Brien, Head of Secondary at the British Council School commented: “We hope that the number of companies taking part will continue to grow, so that we can offer our students new opportunities
Companies such as Caterpillar Financial Corp, Clifford Chance, Uría Menéndez, Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira, the Madrid Down Syndrome Foundation, ICEX, Lexecom, RTVE, Sitel, La Paz, ROVI and Atresmedia, are some of those currently included.
The British Council School Workshadowing Programme is inspired by a British curriculum which since 2004, suggests a minimum of 15 days work experience for all students in Year 10 and Year 11. The difference is that, whilst this provides active participation in the daily work routines of the companies concerned, in a workshadowing project, the student is just observing, listening and following one or more professionals inside the company. This is why its called shadowing.