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Does work experience have value?

Does work experience have value?
July 5, 2023 Justin Turner

Is it ever worth doing work experience?

A question well answered by Callywith College BTEC and A Level students.

For our three day work experience, we wanted to set them a larger project.  Theme – Net Zero.  We asked them to produce a website promoting the South West as an ideal clean energy industry location.

A key part of this was including live solar energy output data using a public API (Application Programming Interface) produced by the University of Sheffield. Very few of the students had experience with JavaScript and none of them had experience calling an API.  A challenge indeed!

The students used the RAD (Rapid Application Development) methodology, which is similar to the agile approach used at Rowe but is geared more towards rapid prototyping. But why be boring?  Projects rarely run smoothly so we threw in a couple of surprise additional requirements at the end of the first day.

Strong soft skills are an important part of being a good developer so we asked all the teams to present their final solutions and in particular, the ‘why’ behind their choices. We watched these on the final afternoon and were really impressed by how confidently they were delivered.

The final solutions were way beyond our expectations. The main challenge was calling the API, so we were only expecting the results to be displayed in a fairly basic way, but every team managed to plot them on a graph of some description. Deciding on a winning team was difficult because they had all done so well. In the end, one team stood out by presenting the data in a selection of graphs for the user to choose from with various additional settings.

We were very pleased to present Mylo, Callum, James and Tommy with a well-deserved £20 Amazon voucher each.


So why have work experience?

Because it is a learning experience for everyone.

For the students, it was a great project to add to their CVs demonstrating excellent teamwork, technical skills, design skills, social media strategy, project management and presentation skills, to name a few.

For us, the learning opportunity was more surprising. We saw the students turning to AI  for help when questioning how to do something a certain way or why something wasn’t working. Whilst we were keen for the students not to copy and paste chunks of code, using these tools seemed to provide easy to understand explanations and inspiration when they needed it. We were hoping the students would learn something from us, but we weren’t necessarily expecting it to be the other way around!