10 things you need to know about short work experiences

Work experience can take many forms – on this page, you will learn more about the different types of ‘short work experience’ that you might undertake as part of a taught work experience module, which are sometimes also referred to as a ‘short placement’ or ‘placement module’. This will include a period of supervised work experience for a ‘placement provider’ on either a full-time or part-time basis and generally require you to spend a lot more time with a real world employer. 

All types of work experience can help you to progress to a placement year but ‘short work experiences’ can easily be confused with the placement year and have some key differences highlighted on this page; the main difference being that these form part of an assessed module, which makes them different to extra-curricular work experience like internships and vacation schemes. If you do want to know more about the placement year, check out our 10 things you need to know about placements page, as well as information on more specific placements such as Health and Social Care, and Education placements.

1. Short work experiences are different to a ‘placement year’ 

A ‘short work experience’ is something that forms part of a work experience module and they typically include a period of work experience which lasts between 120-240 hours (or thereabouts), depending on how much academic credit the module is worth. They are formally assessed and graded using the same principles as any other module, with the key feature being that you apply your learning in a real world context during a short period of work experience – so we call them ‘short work experiences’ but you might also hear the term ‘placement module’ or ‘short placements’ too. 

These modules will typically teach you something new or challenge you to explore a new area/subject/industry and require you to apply this new learning, skills or awareness in a real world setting (working 120-240 hours in most cases) and then undertake an assessed piece of work. These modules are ‘credit bearing’ which means they count toward your degree. A placement year on the other hand is quite different; these are more about applying what you already know over a much longer period of time, having been on your degree for at least 2 years already (1 year if you’re a postgraduate student), setting and achieving longer-term goals and taking on much greater real world responsibility to earn a different type of degree and an Applied Professional Diploma

2. They could be in a variety of different formats 

The format of the short work experience that students can complete for a ‘work experience module’ varies from course to course, depending on how the work experience module has been designed and approved by the academic team and what employers are looking for, so it could be any one of four types below: 

  • Short Placement: These are the most common type of ‘work experience module’ and are fairly straightforward. These involve working for a specific placement provider on either a full-time or part-time basis for a minimum of 120 hours. These are typically with an employer you aren’t already working with, so they’re different to what we call an ‘Incorporated Placement’. 
  • Incorporated Placement (with your current employer): These are very similar to ‘Short Placements’ and require you to work with a placement provider for the same amount of time (at least 120 hours). These are slightly different though, as you will work with one of your current employers who you might already have a part-time job with, so formalise this into a ‘Short Placement’. We will only start counting the ‘120 hours’ once the new arrangements are in place and your placement has been formally approved by your module team. 
  • Virtual Placements: Also referred to as online, remote or e-experience, a virtual work experience or placement gives you the opportunity to complete a full placement from home, in most cases using nothing but a laptop. Online work experience is open to all and for the majority of opportunities all you need to get involved is access to a computer and a stable internet connection. Virtual placements share many similarities with traditional, in-person internships but their online nature allows participants to work with organisations across the country, even the globe. They're particularly relevant in these unprecedented times, as they enable students and graduates to gain invaluable work experience in spite of lockdown restrictions. 
  • Placement Alliance: These are quite rare, but you’ll know one when you see one as they replace 3 of your modules to free up enough time for you to do this. These are generally much bigger work experience modules and are worth up-to 60 credits, rather than 20 credits like most modules. A lot of negotiation goes into these so they are the equivalent of 3 standard modules, which means you will learn or be challenged upon a much wider variety of learning, skills and awareness. 
  • Enterprise Residency: During an Enterprise Residency-type placement, you will work in groups or individually in a work experience that is much more enterprising or entrepreneurial in nature and culminate in one of the most unique learning experiences at Sheffield Hallam. You will take on a project to develop either a product or service related to your course and you will be supervised by a named coach throughout the process. These usually take place in the Hallam i-Lab, which is one of the reasons we call them a residency as well as being supervised by our resident experts. 

As all courses, students experiences and career prospects are different, we need to design work experiences which are flexible and responsive. That means it is often difficult to put all the specific requirements for your work experience options in one place as you may have several options open to you, but you can find out more on your course or module blackboard site or by talking to your Academic Adviser or course leader. 

3. They don’t always have to be subject-specific; it’s about developing transferable skills

Most short work experience modules at Sheffield Hallam don’t have specific requirements that require you to work in a role that directly relates to the module or your degree as a whole; it’s about whether or not the experience will help you develop transferable skills, help you gain a real world context and meet the module learning outcomes. For example, if you’re studying politics, we won’t ask you to become a Member of Parliament or form your own pressure group; you’re much more likely to see learning outcomes that challenge you to develop a real world understanding of something within the module content, which is where you will need to think creatively and really look for the potential value you might get out of every experience available to you. Your specific learning outcomes can be found on your module blackboard site and someone from the module team can provide a useful sense check too. 

4. You can find relevant opportunities on Handshake under ‘Short Work Experience (in module)’, or you can try and find your own

A lot of courses have a number of opportunities available for you to apply for on Handshake, in addition to offering you the ability to source your own - you will find these under the ‘Short Work Experience (in module)’ category and your module team will let you know when they are available and you can search through an array of opportunities that have been approved by Sheffield Hallam. Opportunities are normally advertised a semester in advance, so be sure to begin looking and applying in plenty of time so you don’t miss out. If you have a specific organisation or industry in mind you also have the option to source your own work placement. Please note it is important to have the approval of an academic from the short work experience module, this is usually the Module Leader or your Academic Adviser. You can gain help and more information on how to approach providers at Careers Connect or book an appointment with an Employability Adviser. You might also find external sources useful in trying to find a short work experience, such as Prospects, PlacementUK and RateMyPlacement but remember to check the timescales align to your availability. 

5. Some modules have options for doing this internationally

They might be short experiences, but don’t let that stop you going further if you can. Why not gain experience abroad and learn how your academic knowledge can be applied in an international setting? Gaining international work experience will allow you to stand out as a graduate, highlighting key skills such as independence, cultural awareness, and the willingness to face new challenges. A significant consideration to note is that by working overseas you will incur more costs than working domestically. There are grants and bursaries in place for those eligible, including Go Global. You could also fundraise to help with costs which would demonstrate further employability skills. 

If your University timetable allows, there is no reason for your international experience to end before you are ready to come home! If you are already abroad, why not explore? Most courses will use semester 2 for short work experiences which means you are free to use the summer to continue your experience for work or travel, or you may want to return to undertake a full placement year if this is an option on your course.

Remember, if you’re going abroad, make sure you have appropriate insurance cover for your possessions – the University’s insurance policy will cover you for emergency medical costs and applying for this is part of the approval process. 

6. They need to be approved as part of your module

Your health, safety and welfare is our priority at Sheffield Hallam and going out on a placement of any duration can present interesting challenges, which we do our best to prepare you for as you are still students of Sheffield Hallam even on work experience. To allow you to succeed in the module and prepare you for placement, you are required to complete the ‘Short Work Experience approval’ on UniHub, this will take you step-by-step through the approval process in a series of forms. The approval includes the student placement health & safety assessment, the student placement information form (including a section to capture Disclosure and Barring Service requirements) and the placement provider health & safety form. If the placement is abroad, you will also be required to complete the SHU travel insurance request form so you get a copy of the policy which covers you for emergency medical costs (but not for your possessions). If your placement is virtual, some of the approval will be quicker given that you won’t be based in a physical setting but the experience must still be approved as a whole using this process. Upon completion, the University can begin to approve your placement making the necessary checks with your placement provider and academic placement contact. You should also refer to your module blackboard site for any specific resources, requirements or advice. 

7. You need to get in touch with your placement provider before you start 

Starting your placement is a little more than just showing up on the first day (which is also very important!); there is a lot of work that goes in to ensuring the experience is right for you and that you are able to thrive. The University is not able to disclose any specific needs that you might have, in fact, the best person to do that is you and we can support you to do that. Part of the approval of the placement will ask you to discuss the work you will be expected to do in more detail, the working environment and any potential risks to your health, safety and welfare. In addition, you should also discuss some of the more practical aspects such as whether or not there is a particular dress code, what time do you need to arrive, who do you need to report to, are there any online resources and information you need to review in advance etc. Your module will cover some of the basics for what you should ask to help you prepare for the experience, so do take this seriously and raise any specific concerns with your module tutor in the first instance. 

8. They have learning outcomes linked to a module

Your short work experience, similar to other modules at Hallam, will include learning objectives and an assessment that contributes to your overall academic achievements. Typically, you will be asked to present your experience to academic staff at the University whilst reflecting on both your personal and professional development. The learning outcomes for your module will provide requirements in detail. 

9. They generally aren’t paid but that doesn’t mean you don’t have responsibilities

The nature of work experience often means that it doesn’t come with a salary or hourly rate, so it’s not part of our formal requirements and that’s one of the reasons we try to keep them short but also meaningful to achieve your learning outcomes. Organisations give up a lot of time to supervise you in their workplace, which comes at a significant cost for them. So just because you are not being paid in pounds, this doesn’t mean you are not gaining lots from the experience; as such, you are expected to act responsibility at all times on your placement as a representative of the university and will need to do this to pass your module. The professionalism on placement section and the student code of conduct are useful guides too. 

You may also see information about additional maintenance loans for placements on our funding page, this is only available for the placement year. Placement year funding is not available if you are undertaking a short work experience, this is only available for the placement year; therefore please do not apply for this when you apply for your student funding as this can delay your payment. 

10. You have access to support while on placement 

You still have the same access to support services whilst on placement as at any other time as a student and you might find that you need additional support whilst you are out in a real world setting. Make sure you seek support if you need it from someone in the module team, one of your named advisers on blackboard, or by getting in touch through Hallam Help. Don’t forget, these experiences are part of a module, so you might find what you need on your module blackboard site. 

Also worth knowing- other students have already completed their short work experiences, and these are their top tips:

  •  Completing a short work experience will give you an excellent networking opportunity. A number of Hallam Graduates go on to work at their placement full-time post-graduation! 
  • Whilst you are on placement you are a representative of the University. Fortunately, previous students that have excelled during their placement will have created a good reputation and created opportunities for your academic year. It is worth seeking out details of previous work placement destinations from your course. 
  • The world is your oyster. Your placement experience is only as good as you allow it to be. Sheffield Hallam has a wealth of relationships with local organisations to be benefited from. Although sourcing your own placement is recommended because only you know what challenges you enjoy! Reach out to companies and create your own story. 
  • Although this is an assessed placement, you are not assessed based on how impressive the organisation is. You will be assessed on your ability to reflect on your personal and professional development. 
  • Take advantage of Hallam Career Fairs. Throughout the year the University hosts 100s of employers that want to talk to you! A discussion with one of these employers may give you the information you need to make an informed decision, or an interest in an organisation.
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