Works Experience…

My son is sixteen. At sixteen in the UK our children do significant exams – GCSEs. These exams dictate what subjects they can do for the last two years at school…and also have a big impact on their available choices when they leave school at eighteen.  Once the GCSEs are done (June) it is customary for the pupils to undertake work experience. Two weeks when they experience being at work. An eight hour day. Five days a week.
My son’s experience is half way through his allotted two weeks. To make things even better he is staying with me during these two weeks as well. And that’s been a wonderful experience for us both.
The thing about experience is…that you can’t just be given it, or read it or watch it. You just have to have the experience yourself. For example, no matter how much anyone talked to me about being responsible and accountable for the Profit and Loss of a business…I just had to experience it to understand it. Being a global leader whilst being based in the UK has to be experienced. Having your son stay with you for two weeks has to be experienced.
It has been more complicated than I imagined (think cooking, laundry and waiting your turn for the shower) but more enjoyable and inspiring than I dreamed. We drove up together last weekend. It was hot. Shorts and t-shirts (and flip-flops for my son). Monday morning I am suddenly presented with a smartly dressed, sophisticated looking young man. Wow! And at the end of his first day, this smart young man recounted an amazing list of tasks he had taken on, techniques he was using that he had never seen before, and topics he found intriguing and engaging. Wow!
I couldn’t decide if my biggest question was where had my little boy gone…or wondering just where this truly amazing individual in front of me had come from.
And as I sat there and listened, it felt like I was looking at and listening to myself. Hard to explain really – I can’t ever remember looking or sounding that smart – but that’s what it felt like. It’s probably not surprising – my son looks like I did at that age…and he sounds like me. The difference was that he was talking about something I had never heard him talk about before…and we were in a situation we hadn’t ever been in before.  It was an remarkable feeling…at one and the same time inspiring and thought provoking.
As the week progressed, I found myself thinking more and more about what I was like when I was sixteen, what I was doing and what I was thinking about. And what had happened since. And what was ahead for my son…and how amazing he is going to be. And what was ahead for me….
But the beauty of having a sixteen year old around is that it’s just not possible to sit around contemplating the meaning of life…there’s too much urgency around the next meal or the latest X-Box game.
And in many ways this was perhaps the main learning I have taken from my works experience. Our family will always ground us. Families don’t care about job titles, or work load, or travel schedules. They care about each other. They care that we are happy. They are there for us without condition.
I have one more week of my son’s works experience to go. It will be week like no other. I have already learned tasks, techniques and topics I found intriguing and engaging…and from an individual who inspires me.


About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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4 Responses to Works Experience…

  1. dram says:

    I still vividly remember the vicarious experience of my oldest son’s work experience – it was a pretty significant turning-point for him. He was lucky enough to spend a week in Discovery at Sandwich. He as absolutely inspired and is now studying Chemistry at university, and plans to do a PhD. He stayed in my room at the Bell so he got a taste of what life is like for me as well – working late in the evening because I had committed to get something done for a client. So I guess he was learning about work from two very different perspectives!

    • Steve Street says:


      Excellent to hear from you and thank you for such a great story…and especially the link through to your son now doing chemstry. Fantastic (and i am not just saying that becasue i am a chemist :-))



  2. Meador, Vince says:

    Glad you (and your son) had this experience, Steve. As it seems you know and are finding real-time examples, every stage of your child’s development is special and fun. It never stops. As my two kids are ~30 years old, I can say it is still continuing. Some stages have their pain and stresses (maybe not with your kids!), but the specialness of watching them grow and evolve through each stage continues. OK, enjoy it all with each of your kids. Vince


    • Steve Street says:


      Great to hear from and many thanks. You are so right. And the good news was that our second week was even better than the first. Hard to imagine but true.



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