Summer’s here, students at university, college and independent school have largely broken up, whilst elsewhere in the region, others have finished their exams and are contemplating a few weeks of sun, relaxation and time with their family and friends. What a challenge for us then to say – Hey! No – please don’t stop completely! If you haven’t yet started full-time employment and so have a summer break ahead of you, we would urge you to please use this time to your advantage. Here’s how ….

Work experience

When we talk of ‘work experience’ it so often conjures up thoughts of a compulsory week out of school in year 10 when other year groups were perhaps having fun on enrichment days instead. Hopefully you had a week with a major employer, shadowing someone interesting on a fascinating project that you’d be proud to include on our CV and more than likely arranged through your parents or contacts of a close friend. But even if you didn’t, there will be plenty you will have gained from whatever experience you did have at that age.*

And now here comes another summer and a long break when you could be getting yet more!

When you’re up against others at interview for that one place at that one Uni – or for that one apprenticeship that you want more than anything in the world – you will need a whole library of experiences at your fingertips to help answer the questions they’ll be throwing at you.

And now’s the time to be out there getting those experiences.

Whatever you do, please just don’t leave this to the last minute because it won’t happen. This really is the perfect time to call on those uncles and aunts you haven’t seen since Christmas to help get you time in their company so you can add more and more impressive experiences to your CV and personal statement.

Experience of work

Okay – nothing’s perfect. And we totally get that we can’t all secure the ideal experience with the big corporate brand and we don’t all have relatives and friends in high places. But please get something – somewhere – please. This is all about having experience of the real world. It may not be paid, it may not be for the full summer – or even a week – but it will be of huge value, give you some amazing skills* and a real insight of what’s to come.

Relevant work experience

Relevant experience is the dream and often only achieved through volunteering. If you are applying to Uni, you’ll be encouraged to include as much relevant evidence as possible in your application and similarly if you are applying for an apprenticeship or even (dare we say) a full-time job.

Whether academic or employers are looking for evidence that you are the right person for the vacancy, that you have experiences which align to the subject, job role or company brand and ideally that those experiences were achieved recently – so the older you get, the less important your year 10 work experience week will become.

Get some personal careers advice and guidance

At the same time as trying to get practical experience, why not try out a careers test to help you work out your key strengths and personality type so you can be confident about your interests and what you could end up doing before committing to anything in the autumn?

Chat to a careers adviser or teacher who knows you well. Try out one of the many careers advice and guidance websites; many have a webchat or telephone service attached. Ask a friend or chat to your parents/carers. Take a look at the local industries and career sectors on and look for inspiration through events, talks, workshops as well as open days. To help, there’s more on this in one of our earlier blogs.**

Starting Year 13 in September?

Open Days – We’ve just had the main summer open day week locally, as you’ll know from our earlier blogs, but they are always going on around the country and (dare we say) if you are not looking locally – why ever not? – there’s bound to be one you could get to over the holidays.

However, the local Unis and colleges do offer alternatives to their large open days such as the audio walking tours at the University of Bristol and self-guided tours at the University of Bath. We are also expecting more local open days in the autumn, starting with the University of Bristol, University of Bath and Bath College in September. And we’d strongly encourage you to please try to get along to one of these before applying through UCAS.

Research Unis and degree courses ahead of Term 1 – It won’t be long and the autumn term will be here and the start of year 13. There will be a lot of distractions in the final run-up to mocks and exams including course work, charity fundraising activities, school plays and sporting activities. In the background, you could well be applying to Uni, but how will you have time to research this as well?

Assuming that you are planning on going into higher education and you still do not know which exact degree subject you would like to study – or where – why not start that research now and continue over the summer until your decision is well-researched and ‘water-tight’.

This is going to be one of the most important decisions you will make and you may currently be either expecting someone to make it for you or be likely to leave it to the last minute. Why? It could determine your happiness for the next 3 or 4 years, it will potentially affect your choice of career and it will definitely sit at the top of your CV as, most likely, your last academic achievement. How much better to be able to also talk at interview about how you came to choose the Uni and degree after extensive research, than through a series of blunders which left it as your only option.

To make a start, why not make a bit of time every day for the next few weeks and do your online research in bite-sized chunks – perhaps one Uni a day once you’ve narrowed down the possible courses on the UCAS Search website?***

Start drafting your Personal Statement – Something else you’ll probably have in mind will be your UCAS personal statement. We’ll cover this early in term 1 when your teachers will be available to help guide you individually. However, there are a few things worth noting ahead of the summer which may help encourage you to do as much as you can now whilst there is still time.

A personal statement is like a mini-CV and will be your opportunity to promote ‘Product-Me’ to the Unis that you are applying to. Ideally you want them to make you an unconditional offer, but realistically you may have to hope that your personal statement contains enough to secure you an interview where you can talk about your achievements and why the Uni should pick you.

For their part, some courses are substantially over-subscribed and departments ask for an interview to cherry pick the best applicants. Others may simply need to ensure you are applying for a course that you will be able to complete and at a Uni that suits you so your personal statement and potential interview will help with that selection process.

And finally …

Apprenticeships as a whole are advertised all year round, but some are only live for a limited period. For example, EY are now starting to advertise their vacancies for the autumn of 2018, whilst some of the other finance companies are advertising for this autumn, the 2018 aerospace engineering vacancies won’t generally be advertised until the autumn and winter whilst the civil engineering vacancies are typically advertised next spring and early summer.

If what you are interested in is not currently being advertised, there will still be plenty to research on individual company websites as well as in chat rooms and generally on the web.

And try to keep an eye on Careersnearhere as we put as many of the live, local opportunities as possible all together on the noticeboard relevant to the career sector you are looking at. This should save you and your teachers considerable time not having to look all over the web at different individual sites, and there are also lots of vacancies throughout the year on the government’s national Find an Apprenticeship website – worth a look.

* Read our Transferable Skills blogs on here – and

** Read our blog about personal careers advice and guidance here –

*** Read our blogs on researching Unis and degree courses on here – It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

Why not check out the website for local open days, talks, events, work experience, academic courses and apprenticeship vacancies. And please feel free to Share with parents/carers, teachers and 16-21s.

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