Work experience and volunteering

Work experience is a crucial part of moving on and allows you to have hands-on experience of what it's like to work in different environments

Work experience isn't just something you do towards the end of your time at school. It's something that you should look to do again when you are in college or university. Work experience is a great way of showing motivation and initiative on your CV and will help you decide if you would like to go into a particular area of work.

Work experience may form part of a course you do at university and can sometimes even lead to the offer of a job. It's really important to see work experience as something that you do not only in school, but after you leave as well.

Your school's work experience coordinator will support you in finding potential placements for work experience. Arranging the placement will be your responsibility, but you may want to ask your parents to help you.

Supported Internships

The government is currently developing a Supported Internship programme for young people with a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) statement. Supported internships are structured study programmes, based at an employer and tailored to your individual needs. They are designed to give you the skills needed for the workplace and include on-the-job training and coaching. The programme is currently being trialled at 15 colleges and Supported Internships will be widely available in England from September 2013.

Online resources

Work experience is of increasing importance on a graduate CV, the below websites offer support, information and guidance in finding work placements and careers advice:

Action for Blind People's employment service provides specialist advice and guidance to support you in finding work placements.

Blind in Business offer a 'Buddying scheme' whereby mentors and students are matched on the grounds of industry and geographical similarity. Students are encouraged to utilise their mentors for advice and guidance as well as support in securing work experience where possible.

EmployAbility work with disabled students and graduates to direct them towards internships, graduate programmes and other roles. They offer advice and support to students throughout the recruitment process advising on: disclosure, successful applications and interview skills.

Shaw Trust offers vocational training, work tasters and work preparation for disabled people.

Work Experience and the Access to Work scheme

Between 2011 and 2014 the government has announced that one billion pounds will be spent in order to provide unemployed young people with extra help as part of a new "Youth Contract". An extra 250,000 Work Experience places will be offered to young people during this period, and young people aged 18 to 24-years-old will be offered a Work Experience place, before they enter the Work Programme. As part of the Youth Contract, young people can also receive 'Access to Work' funding when completing work experience placements.

For more information about the Access to Work Scheme visit RNIB's Employment section. You can also find out more about the Access to Work scheme and your eligibility and support under the Youth Contact on the GOV.UK Access to Work webpages.

Volunteering

Volunteering can add a great deal to your life and the lives of others. It offers you the chance to become involved with something you really care about as well as an opportunity to meet new and like-minded people. It also enables you to try out something new and can be useful in terms of determining whether you'd like a career in a certain area. Skills and experience gained from volunteering are another way to show potential employers what you can offer. Volunteering with an organisation can sometimes lead to the offer of a job.

There are lots of volunteering opportunities, including many with RNIB Group. To find out more, please call 08456 030 575 or visit our volunteering section

Your experiences

"I met the Transitions Officer here in Wales when my Mum got in touch with her, I was 21, I'd dropped out of college three years back and I was going nowhere. My confidence was at an all time low and my vision was deteriorating all the time. I felt useless, incapable and really angry and spent all day every day in front of the TV".

"I worked with the Transitions Officer for about nine months and she helped me build my confidence and self esteem and look at the options available to me. Eventually I agreed to visit an organisation that said they'd take me as a volunteer two hours a week so we went together and had a meeting with the staff. I was really hostile and unsure and so scared of being unable to do what they wanted me to because of my poor sight but with a lot of encouragement I took the chance".

"A year on I can't tell you how much it's changed my life. I've made amazing new friends through work, I've developed my admin and office skills no end and I've learned to use access software so that I can undertake tasks in the office environment. I'm so much happier, so much more confident and I'm there four days a week. I've still got a way to go and am thinking about starting a night course and going back to education to complete the A levels I ditched a few years back".

"Volunteering can do so much for you in every sense. It's changed my life, I'd even go as far as saying it's saved me".

Further information

Wider information about careers, job-seeking and employment is available in our main Employment section.

Contact: cypf@rnib.org.uk