Work Experience in the Isle of Man has successfully administered more than 1200 work experience placements for Year 10 students at Isle of Man secondary schools during 2016, and is now looking forward to arrangements for the new school year. PDMS has an ongoing contract with the Department of Education and Children (DEC) to run the programme via, making innovative changes to the underlying technology possible in a short timeframe.

SignedUp software, which powers, aims to encourage collaboration between students, teachers, parents and employers. By allowing everyone to become part of one online community, gives users control of their own information, reduces administrative time and streamlines the work experience placement process.


Every Manx student between the ages of 14 and 15 undergoes a work experience placement, helping them gain exposure to ‘the real world’ and allow them to make informed decisions about their career paths. Over 400 local organisations offer opportunities for these students every year.

Whilst everyone agrees that the work experience placements are valuable in helping students become aware of their full potential, with an average of 242 placements across 80 employers for 164 students in each school, out of the 5 schools who participated, feedback gathered from teachers and other professionals showed that the process could often be time-consuming and over-complicated.

The solution

By replacing the existing matching process, which was cumbersome and difficult to use, the website has united administrators and participants, allowing the programme to be managed far more efficiently.  The Island’s Work Experience Coordinator can now oversee the communications between teachers, employers and students.

By providing a centralised portal for all participants, students can view and shortlist their preferred placements and submit their choices themselves. Teachers are then able to allocate their students to appropriate work experience placements in weekly blocks.

SignedUp also allows Health and Safety and Employer Liability Insurance records to be easily created and maintained for individuals and employers, with reminders for administrators about renewals via an automated system. This alleviates some of the administrative burden and ensures ongoing accuracy of data records.

Creating a reliable, communal portal allows multiple administrators to work on a shared data source and reduces duplication of work and administration. The creation of an audit trail as individual users work documents a record of changes made, with detailed notes available against each placement.

The software provides statistics about the number of students allocated to their final choices and number of placements still available. Once the placement process has been completed, administrators can access reports and generate letters to distribute to programme participants, parents and employers, maintaining regular communication and providing updates during each stage.

The Results and looking ahead

Work experience is a valuable opportunity for students, and recognised widely to provide insight into the world of work and inspiration for first steps in career development. Providing a placement doesn’t just benefit a student, work experience holds value for the labour market including allowing employers and organisations to:

  • influence career choices
  • develop a recruitment channel
  • create management development opportunities
  • influence the quality of future employees
  • raise company profiles through the community
  • keep up-to-date with the education system
  • help students to improve their employability skills

The SignedUp platform creates an online space in which all users of the system, from Students to Programme Coordinator, are able to manage their own data and take ownership of their placement experience.

Mark Kemp, KS4 Careers Coordinator at Ballakermeen High School comments, “Your team has been very helpful throughout the work experience process, you’ve listened to feedback and have acted quickly on it and you’ve ensured someone has been available for meetings, assemblies and training at all times.  It has been an enjoyable and efficient partnership and we look forward to continuing to work with Lorna and her team.”

Following the success of the Isle of Man programme, SignedUp is now working with Fife Council to roll out work experience coordination programmes across Scotland and manage their jobs recruitment service Opportunities Fife.

SignedUp provides Fife Council with a centralised, online solution to facilitate their operations which serves a population of over 350,000. Opportunities Fife is now building the workforce and management of work experience through SignedUp. It is also being run as a pilot programme in 5 of the region’s 18 schools and colleges to try and reduce duplication between establishments and centralise a joined-up initiative.

For the year ahead we aim to:

  • Continue to raise awareness of the value of work experience and recognise those who support the programme by, for example,  issuing certificates to each company who hosted a placement to display and providing window stickers for organisations to back-up the positive impression of supporting the young workforce;
  • Increase participation of local companies to meet the growing demand for placements through promoting the programme in local business publications and advertising;
  • Further enhance the system to make the process even easier to administer, and continue to use technology to enhance work experience and join up the labour market; and
  • Work with the schools to ensure that the pupils get the most out of their placement, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by teachers and education professionals so we can provide the right tools to create solutions to these issues.

If you have any questions about this case study or our work to develop the future workforce, please get in touch.

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