What is Work Shadowing?

Work shadowing (in the context of this programme) is an experience of the workplace whereby a student spends time with an employee and learns about their role through direct observation.

Traditionally there are three types of work shadowing:

  • Natural - where the shadow observes the employee performing typical functions and operations (usually as an experiential tool)
  • Controlled -  where the shadow observes a specific task or activity (usually as a learning tool)
  • Participatory - where the shadow undertakes activities under supervision (usually as a mentoring tool)

How to Scale Work Shadowing

Work Shadowing is more effective for individual students or very small groups.  Typical placements would be expected to last between one day and one week, depending on the school and the employer and may be spread over a multiple weeks where possible.

Benefits of Work Shadowing for Young People

  • Gain insight into the roles and responsibilities of employees across a range of departments.
  • Reflect and learn from the experiences of employees.
  • See how other staff and teams work together.
  • See the bigger picture and understand more about how a business and workplace functions.
  • “Test out” possible career options and challenge preconceptions.

Benefits of Work Shadowing for Schools 

  • Develop essential skills in their students.
  • Create greater relationships with local businesses to provide further opportunities for school talks, careers fairs, etc
  • Impact on achievement by providing students with an essential link with what they are learning and why.
  • Set pupils on a previously untapped pathway.
  • Can be done in most workplace environments.

Benefits of Work Shadowing for Hosts

  • Network with colleagues from different areas.
  • Share your experiences with young people within your local area.
  • Provide essential skills for your staff.
  • Develop your coaching/mentoring skills.
  • Get a new perspective on processes or procedures.

Potential Innovations of the Work Shadowing Model

  • Group shadowing - employees being shadowed by small groups of students
  • Rotational shadowing - students rotate shadowing opportunities with others to enable peer discussion and comparison after the event
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) simulations - allow students to get involved in participatory work shadowing without risk, especially in technical roles such as surgeon, engineer or plant operator.

Support for Businesses - teenage girl shadowing colleague using phone

Get Involved

If you are an employer, we would like to hear from you and find out what challenges you face in offering work experience, and your ideas for offering new experiences of your workplace to young people.

Complete Our Questionnaire on Barriers to Offering Experiences of Your Workplace

If you don't want to complete our questionnaire, you can sign up to find out more and/or attend our 'Virtual Experience of the Workplace Employer Briefing' (15 November 2023 at 4pm) below.

Sign Up to Find Out More*

*If you have completed the questionnaire there is no need to sign up as we will be in touch.

If you are a school and would like to to get involved:

Sign Up to Find Out More

Last updated on 27/09/2023