Work placement unit

The main ethos of work placement is to introduce school pupils into the world of work and, where possible, into an area of work that the pupils themselves have expressed a career interest in. This enables pupils to find out if their expectations and perceptions of industry match "real life." It also allows pupils to find out about employment opportunities in a particular industry, the qualifications required and the training or further education courses they should consider. It is intended that the pupils involved in work placement will be in S4, S5 and S6.

Aberdeenshire Council carries out health and safety checks on all employers taking part in the work placement programme and the safety of pupils is always paramount. 

News from the work placement unit

Opportunities for All newsletter: View the current issue of the Opportunities for All newsletter


Ringlink are now accepting applications for the highly-regarded Land-based Pre-apprenticeship Programme. Find out more, including details on how to apply in the Ringlink flyer (pdf 3.3MB).

Available types of work placement 

There are three routes open to pupils seeking a work placement.

Options 1 and 2 apply where a school has chosen a specific week where pupils will be offered a week-long work placement. The process for this type of placement begins five months before the placement week. This is to allow the Unit time to carry out all the health and safety visits required and to complete other administrative processes before the placements begin.

Option 3 can be arranged at any time of the year and normally these require to be with the work placement unit a number of weeks before the placement is due to begin to allow sufficient time for all necessary health and safety visits to be completed.

Option1. The pupil chooses the Self Found option where they approach the employer themselves. For instance, this could be a family member or friend but the initial approach must be made by the pupil using the Self Found arrangements form (below). The employer completes Self Found form (pdf 141KB) which is then returned to the pupil.

Option 2. The pupil makes three choices from a database called WorkIT which offers a wide variety of work placement providers and opportunities. The pupil's guidance teacher will then select the most appropriate choice and take this forward. The work placement unit (based at Woodhill House) then sends the request to the relevant employer.

Option 3. The pupil chooses the extended/flexible placement option. The pupil or guidance teacher should make the initial approach. The typical placement of this type is for one or two days per week up to a period of eight weeks (which may be continued if all parties are in agreement) although more intensive placements might be considered depending on the pupil's circumstances.

The work placement process flowchart (pdf 12.6KB) provides additional information on the procedures involved.

Work placement providers

Companies and organisations across the north east which provide work experience opportunities are fundamental to the operation of the work placement unit.

Participation by companies is voluntary and they can decide on the type of placements they may wish to offer. They are also free to determine how many placements they are able to offer, and when in the academic year it best suits them to offer these.

Placement providers can also apply various selection criteria to the placements they have on offer. This may include pupil interviews for suitability, an age limit, qualifications that pupils should be capable of attaining, a written reference from a guidance teacher or completion of a CV to forward to the provider.

Companies can also benefit in the following ways by offering work experience placements:

  • giving them the experience of acting as a mentor, role model or supervisor
  • making them feel that they are contributing something worthwhile to help young people prepare for working life
  • raising health and safety awareness
  • broadening their experience of young people from different backgrounds and cultures, and with varying abilities and needs

In addition providers often report that work experience can also benefit their organisation by:

  • making a visible contribution to the local community
  • developing recruitment channels through links with schools and through informally assessing students as potential future employees
  • helping to motivate and develop the skills of staff
  • helping to create a positive image of the organisation and their industry

For an employer which is offering a placement for the first time, a visit from an Aberdeenshire Council health and safety assessor must be arranged prior to the pupil being placed. The visit from the assessor will establish the suitability of the proposed placement with regard to the physical and procedural safeguards in place to safely control the risks that the pupil may be exposed to. The visit will also check that the provider has employer liability insurance as well as checking their health and safety policy (if there are more than five employees). For additional information read the guide for employers on health and safety visit (pdf 16.9KB).

If you are an employer who is interested in offering placements, please get in touch with our work placement unit.

Case Studies

Case study 1: Balmoral Estates

Cara Mathieson Photo.jpgAlford Academy pupil Cara Mathieson sourced her own work placement with Balmoral Estates in their stables.

Stud Manager Sylvia Ormiston said she’d really enjoyed the experience of having a pupil around. “Between feeding ponies, exercising the working ponies, handling the young foals, clearing paddocks and being involved in the general care of over forty highland, fell and haflinger ponies, there was never a dull moment. Cara was a joy to have around and her interest in ponies has blossomed during her stay.”

Cara said of her placement: “I was working with ponies of all ages and experiences. My daily duties consisted of grooming, riding, cleaning stables and paddocks feeding and lots more. My favourite part of the experience was getting to handle some of the younger horses and riding the very well trained and well behaved horses. I learnt so much about horses and about the day to day care of horses. I really enjoyed watching the training of the horses.”

Case study 2: Aberdeen Journals Ltd

A week-long placement arranged through the Work Placement Unit led to an apprenticeship at Aberdeen Journals for former Meldrum Academy pupil Callum Law.

Callum recalls: “This was a terrific experience as it allowed me an insight into how the newspaper is put together. It was this time at the Evening Express which really whetted my appetite for a career in journalism. This then led to me applying for the Joe Watson Memorial Apprenticeship at the Press and Journal and the Evening Express, and in November 2015 I was offered the position.

It was a brilliant feeling to be chosen for this apprenticeship. I feel that if it was not for my work experience placement with the Evening Express I may have hesitated to apply. This made the work experience placement invaluable in my career choice. I really recommend that all pupils should take on the opportunity of going on work experience – especially in later school years.”

Dawn Forester, Employability Programme Manager for DC Thomson (owners of Aberdeen Journals) believes that work experience is a long standing tradition with all schools - something that aligns perfectly with the Developing Young Workforce Strategy. Dawn said: “Overall, across the business in 2016 we have supported well over 100 young people. We also support internship programmes with our local colleges and universities. We aim to support more young people and will be introducing more apprenticeship opportunities across the business, such as this one.”

Aberdeenshire Council - apprentices

In line with our commitment to the employment of young people, we have implemented an ongoing programme of apprenticeships across a variety of occupational areas. These have expanded from the traditional four year apprenticeships that we offer in positions such as electrician, joiner, painter and landscape to include the new style one and two year modern apprenticeships in positions such as home care, ICT and administration. 

Our apprentices 'earn as they learn', undertaking their work duties, gaining valuable work experience in a busy environment and working towards an industry recognised qualification. 

For further information about apprentices, visit our apprenticeships page

Apprentice and pre-apprentice opportunities with Arnold Clark

The Arnold Clark group offer a wide number of opportunities for young people across their sites in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.

From hire drive administrator to accounts assistant to vehicle technician, each opportunity is much more than a conventional work placement in that it forms part of their pre-apprenticeship programme. This opportunity will allow applicants to prove their enthusiasm, commitment and passion for working with Arnold Clark. 

There are several general conditions to the pre-apprenticeship programmes:

  • All applicants must be at least 15 years old and in year 4 or above.
  • All applicants must be looking to pursue a career in the area relevant to their work experience eg customer services.
  • All applicants must be working towards the grades expected to join our Modern Apprenticeship Programme (pdf 8.29KB).

Applications can only be made through the pupil's guidance teacher, who will be able to provide additional information and an application form.

Work placement unit newsletter 2017

View the most recent issue of our work placement newsletter (pdf 1.04MB)


Work placement unit
Education and children's services
Aberdeenshire Council
Woodhill House
Westburn Road
AB16 5GB
Telephone: 01467 539555 or 01467 536788

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