Work Placement Capacity and Delivery Fund: principles for high quality work placements

Delivery of substantial work placements in return for work placement capacity and delivery fund (CDF) in 2018 to 2019


High quality, structured and outcome-focused work placements will be an integral part of the new T Level package – a student will not be able to complete their T Level unless they have undertaken a work placement. However, work placements will be important in their own right to help young people gain the skills needed to move into employment. That is why we are making funding available now to ensure high quality work placements can be delivered before T Levels are introduced. We expect institutions to use the investment available through the Work Placement Capacity and Delivery Fund (CDF) from April 2018, to effectively build capacity and establish links with employers and to drive forward work placement delivery, in readiness for T Level roll out from 2020, with an expectation of full coverage by 2023.


This note sets out the principles we expect institutions to use when developing their plans for implementing a high quality work placement offer. It also provides good practice that institutions may want to adopt to establish or enhance their work placement provision. The department is keen that this funding makes an impact as early as possible and to ensure that students undertaking work placements in Academic Year 2018 to 2019 are offered a high quality experience that maximises their chances of stepping into skilled employment following their education.

We expect all institutions to follow the principles set out in this note when completing their implementation plans, especially with reference to implementing high quality work placements. This note should be read alongside the funding conditions online guidance and the guidance for completing the implementation plans (MS Word Document, 81.6KB) .

Work placement principles

This note builds on the high level principles being tested in the Work Placement Pilot that launched in September 2017 with The Challenge. The 8 principles outlined below have been developed in consultation with over 150 employers and providers as part of the pilot design. These are ‘emerging’ principles that will continue to be refined through consulting more widely with the sector and employers, and therefore it is possible that these will change before T Levels are rolled out. However, for 2018 to 2019 CDF, these principles provide the minimum requirements for work placement delivery and we expect institutions to adopt them.

Timing and duration

1) Our expectation is that work placements are on average 50 working days in length within an acceptable range of 45 to 60 days covering a minimum of 315 hours. (The normal full time working pattern of the employer, which would typically consist of 7 to 7.5 hours a day). This applies to 2018 to 2019 delivery only after which it will be reviewed. It is important to note that the minimum length of 45 days is non-negotiable. The exact duration for the T Level work placement from 2020 is to be determined and this hourly total is subject to change.

2) The work placement should be within the academic timetable as far as possible but we recognise that in some occupations, peak times will either be seasonal or fall outside the institutions’ normal working hours, such as catering, hospitality or events management.

3) Providers must ensure that student GCSE Maths/English exam preparation (where this applies) is not compromised.

Occupation specific

4) The work placement must be occupationally specific and focussed on developing the practical and technical skills required for the profession or trade that the student is studying for.

5) It will be expected that students will already have a number of occupationally relevant skills to apply and practice in the workplace. The provider must agree a structured work plan with the employer for the duration of the placement and meet with the student and employer formally at least twice (mid-point and end-point) to review student progress and to meet the student fortnightly on an informal basis.

Student readiness

6) The student must be considered work-ready (have an appropriate work ethic and etiquette) to undertake a work placement, to manage both student and employer expectations of the appropriate behaviours in the workplace.


7) The work placement must take place with an external employer (such as, it is on a site external to the student’s learning environment and not on another site operated by the provider). It is critical that the student experiences a real life job role and work life pressures (including travel to work, independence from their peers, working with new people and dealing with the public). This requirement applies even where the institution has extensive facilities mirroring the workplace.

Special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) provision

8) Students with SEND must be able to access high quality external work placements so they can benefit from that real life experience as much as their non-SEND peers. Providers should consider what preparation and support students with SEND would need in order to access work placements, and complete them successfully. Providers should use available work placement capacity and delivery funding, alongside other available funding where appropriate (eg High Needs or Disadvantage Funding) to provide additional support in the workplace and assist with reasonable workplace adjustments. This could include the services of an independent workplace mentor or, where students have more complex needs, a job coach.

Clear and pre-determined outcomes

The principles above outline the key differences between ‘work experience’ commonly offered as part of 16 to 19 study programmes and substantial ‘work placements’ that will form part of the T Level programme, namely, the strong emphasis on pre-defined learning aims. The work placement should provide the real life learning environment to develop and hone the technical skills and behaviours required for the relevant industry. We have specified a longer duration to ensure that students are given sufficient time to master essential skills and develop their strengths; and the employer has the opportunity to develop the students’ technical abilities, to make a lasting impact on the business. The time in the workplace must have a clear structure and purpose to ensure students get the best from their work placement; thereby enabling them to secure skilled employment in their field as a result.

For reference please see the assessment forms (PDF, 278KB, 6 pages) that can be used to complete assessments of student work readiness prior to the placement, and then subsequently their progress at mid-point and post placement, developed for pilot.

Timing and duration

We have provided illustrative examples (PDF, 326KB, 3 pages) of use of funds and options for collaboration developed for the pilots on planning the allocated time into the curriculum, using the day release and block placement work placement options. These examples are being tested through the pilots. It is anticipated that employers from different industries will have their own preferences as to when to host work placements during the academic year. We ask that institutions offer a degree of flexibility when negotiating the timing and pattern of the placement with employers.

The work placement should be within the academic timetable as far as possible and providers should ensure there are adequate flexibilities within the term time curriculum for students to undertake their placement. However, we recognise that in some occupations, peak times will either be seasonal or fall outside the institutions’ normal working hours, such as catering, hospitality or events management.

Building internal capacity

We recommend that institutions take a whole organisation approach to planning the introduction of substantial work placements and ensure that this is fully integrated into the core business. In the process of completing the implementation plan, we ask institutions to forward plan for the next 2 to 3 years and consider staffing and other capacity issues. By September 2018, we would expect by to see progress against these plans. In particular, evidence of the recruitment of dedicated staff to begin sourcing placements; re-training of existing staff; and student work preparation/employability training and time out on placements to be integrated into the curriculum for delivery from the autumn term.

Collaboration with employers

The department does not underestimate the scale of the challenge to create high quality work placement opportunities for all technical students in future, in particular, the importance of securing willing employers to host substantial work placements. When completing the implementation plans, institutions will need to set out their overarching employer engagement strategy, including the requirement to identify appropriate employers within the local area and invest time to build networks and relationships, so that institutions can successfully deliver high quality placements at scale.

Collaboration with other institutions

We recognise institutions’ experience of work placement delivery varies considerably. Smaller and/or less experienced providers may encounter various challenges when building their work placement offer from scratch. We would expect that leading institutions who are actively delivering work placements will share their local knowledge and expertise (including good practice and materials/tools).

We also recommend that smaller institutions collaborate with other neighbouring or similar institutions for economies of scale, by being open to pooling resources for example, hiring a cross-site work placement coordinator and/or sharing the operational responsibilities. It is important that neighbouring institutions work together and in partnership with Local Enterprise Partnerships, Chambers of Commerce and/or other local employer representatives, to develop a coordinated local employer engagement strategy.

We have provided illustrative examples (PDF, 326KB, 3 pages) of use of funds and options for collaboration to achieve this common goal.

We hope that all eligible providers take full advantage of this opportunity and use this advice to aid the delivery of high quality work placement programmes from 2018 to 2019.

Further information

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Published 28 September 2017