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Gaining experience

Working with Children and Young People

If you haven’t had previous experience of working in relevant sectors, it will be essential to gain some voluntary or paid experience working with children, young people and their families or related support work.

Engaging in relevant opportunities will enable you to get a clearer understanding of the nature of the work carried out across different organisations and services. It will also increase your knowledge of the range of challenges you may encounter; how you might respond; and the necessary skills you will need to develop when you start looking for permanent employment.


Types of opportunities

Placements will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience.

On some degrees, work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Should you choose to undertake either your first point of contact is your placement office in your Faculty.

Learn more about placements

Getting involved in volunteering allows you to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference. 

The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies.

Learn more about volunteering

Internships are usually for a fixed period and give you more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat interns in the same way as full-time employees, so when future job roles ask for 'at least one year's experience' you can include an internship in this type of experience.

Area-specific experience

Different areas of working with children and young people may require more specific work experience:

As working as an Early Years Practitioner involves encouraging learning and development through play and teaching, it will be essential to have gained experience in an appropriate setting that has enhanced skills and knowledge around literacy, language, numeracy and planning educational activities. In particular, engaging in experience that provides the opportunity to observe children to monitor their progress will be desirable.

This experience could be gained through a wide range of opportunities, including within a classroom environment, volunteering at a local playgroup or play scheme or within children’s centres.

Examples of early years-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:

  • Children’s Activity Support Volunteer with Gosport Discovery Centre – assisting in preparing materials for a range of engaging activities and in delivering the activity sessions with children and their families.
  • Nursery Volunteer with The Roberts Centre – engaging in stream training and interacting with children through a range of play activities.
  • Home Visiting Volunteer with Home-Start Portsmouth – visiting a family within their home to assist based on their needs; supporting with access to local services and/or connecting with their local community; and assisting with practical help such as playing or reading stories.

If you are looking to gain entry to further professional training then substantial youth and community work experience – either paid or voluntary – will be essential. When looking to pursue this career path most entrants will gain experience by volunteering which may enable them to gain qualifications in Youth Work Practice, offered by a range of awarding bodies.

As this particular role offers guidance and support to young people in their personal, social and educational development, you have the opportunity to engage with individuals in a variety of settings from colleges to faith-based groups; from schools to youth centres.

There is also the option to engage in the work of the Institute for Youth Work which aims to improve quality and support in youth work; promoting a range of events, courses and resources which encourage continuing professional development, alongside your degree course. There are a range of membership options available to anyone involved in youth work, even if it is in a voluntary capacity.

Examples of youth and/or community-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:

  • Volunteer Youth Support Worker with Motiv8 – working within a youth centre to provide engaging, fun and safe activities to young people from within and around the local community, including sports, arts, games and group work sessions, with a focus on supporting personal and social development.
  • Mentoring Young People Volunteer with Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services – meeting with a young person to deliver ongoing support agreed as part of their intervention package to divert them from becoming looked after by the Local Authority. Supporting the activity programme attended by the young person, for example attending presentations and encouraging attendance.
  • PALS Volunteer with Enable Ability – encouraging young people aged 6-16 years old with physical and/or mild-moderate learning disabilities to integrated into leisure and sports activities; assisting with confidence building, providing care and support and ensuring the safety and welfare of

Roles within the health and social care sector can be varied, but most will require hands-on experience. Many undergraduate and postgraduate courses directly related to social care will include placements, offering you the opportunity to gain experience alongside a qualification. If, however, you are looking to secure a place on a social work degree or postgraduate course, for instance, you will need a substantial amount of work experience to strengthen your application. This may include, but is not limited to, paid or voluntary work in a local youth club, elderly care home or health care setting; working with a relevant third sector organisation; working in after-school clubs or with members of the community through targeted projects.

Specifically for those students undertaking a Social Work degree – either at undergraduate or Master’s level – The Prince’s Trust offer a 12-week placement programme, with the opportunity to support vulnerable young people with a range of issues and build relationships with professional youth workers. Work activities may include community projects, one-to-one sessions and supporting young people with the transition into work, education or training.

Examples of health and/or social care-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited to include:

  • Advice and Advocacy Volunteer with Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services – providing advice and advocacy for children who are permanently excluded from school, meeting with families to advise them of their rights and provide information about the exclusion process.
  • Cancer Support Centre Befriender Volunteer with Wessex Cancer Trust – offering practical and emotional support to adults, teenagers and children at all stages of their cancer journey, working as part of the community team helping to make a difference to individuals and families.
  • Safeguarding Officer Volunteer with Over The Wall – acting as an ambassador of the Safeguarding Policy, helping to ensure the mutual protection of children, volunteers and staff as part of a summer camp programme of activities.

Whether you’re interested in getting directly into teaching or you are looking to work with children and young people in other educational environments, such as within arts, heritage and culture, gaining direct experience in such settings will enable you to explore your options.

There is more specific information about finding school-based experience in our dedicated Teaching Career Guide, but below are some examples of education-related roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for. These include:

  • Reading Project Volunteer within a local primary school – each academic year the Careers and Employability Service work with a range of local primary schools to deliver the Reading Project scheme, working with school children in Years 2 to 6 to assist them with their reading and literacy skills.
  • Education Support Volunteer with the National Museum of the Royal Navy – assisting with the delivery of sessions to schools, including colleges and universities, with outreach sessions within school assemblies and classroom presentations.
  • School/College Volunteer Support Worker with Motiv8 – working alongside staff to deliver an alternative programme of educational activities to young people from a range of schools, focusing on teamwork and communication skills.


Where to find opportunities

The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities working with children, young people and their families:

  • MyCareer is the Careers and Employability Service's online jobs board can be used to search for internships, work experience and summer opportunities across sectors and locations.
  • TARGETjobs provides a specific section on different career sectors, including healthcare, public service, charity and social work and teaching education; with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities.
  • Prospects has a search function to look for work experience opportunities both as a current student and as a graduate within public services, including charity and voluntary work, healthcare, social care and teaching and education.
  • Getting information about schools allows you to explore opportunities outside of the Portsmouth area by providing a list of educational establishments in England and Wales. You can use the advanced search facility to filter by education phase and location to quickly find a suitable school to approach for experience.
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University-based opportunities

University Student Ambassadors work as part of the Recruitment and Outreach Team to support the widening participation and outreach activity. They predominantly work with children and young people aged 9-18 years old on a variety of activities targeted at raising aspirations and encouraging them to think about their progression routes. This can involve going out to local schools and colleges, as well as hosting campus visits. 

These are paid opportunities which involve a formal recruitment process. The roles are advertised through MyCareer at the start of the academic year. If you have any questions then you are able to contact the Recruitment and Outreach Team on

Building work experience

Learn more about how we can support you in securing experience and translating the skills you gain to future applications. 


Visit our work experience page

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