Employment for care leavers

All about the world of work, and the many different routes you can take to get into it.

Last updated: 14 November 2022

What is employment?

Employment is when you are paid to work for a company or organisation. This can be either in a full-time or part-time role.

To get a job, you normally go through a recruitment process. This includes an application form and interview. You might also have to some role playing or tests.  

You can look for jobs online, visit your local Jobcentre Plus or contact employment agencies. Other routes into employment include apprenticeships, internships, traineeships and volunteering.

Work experience

This is where you spend time working with a real employer. It's usually organised by your school or college. For example, if you want to be a hairdresser, you could do work experience in a salon for a few weeks.

It can help you to:

  • see what it’s like in the world of work
  • get a job - because you can tell an employer that you have some experience
  • decide if it’s the right kind of job for you or not

Work experience can last between two weeks to a year, depending on how your course runs the programme. Usually, you won’t be with an employer every day. You may start with one or two days a week and then build up to doing blocks of work experience.

You don’t get paid for doing work experience, but you’ll get travel costs, or your lunch provided.


Apprenticeships mix on-the-job training with classroom learning. It means you get a nationally recognised qualification and real experience working for a company.

Apprenticeships are tailored to specific job roles. Do some research first and find one that appeals to you. You must be over 16 to apply for an apprenticeship.

The minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.50 per hour. This applies to apprentices under 19 and those older who are in their first year. Read about the different types of apprenticeships and apprenticeships available in your area on the GOV.UK website.

Your leaving care coach can help you find an apprenticeship and include this goal in your pathway plan.

What levels are there?

  • Intermediate level: equivalent to five GCSEs
  • Advanced level: equivalent to two A Levels
  • Higher Apprenticeships: leading to NVQ Level 4 or above or a Foundation Degree


An internship is where you work for a company for a set time and you try different roles there. Once you’ve completed your internship you can apply for a job with them.

As you’ll know the company well, and they’ll know you, you’ll have more chance of success. Even if you don’t get a permanent job with them, your experience will make it easier to get a role elsewhere

You can talk to your leaving care coach about internships and include this goal in your pathway plan.


A traineeship is a course with work experience that prepares you for a job or an apprenticeship. In a traineeship you’ll get:

  • work preparation training
  • Maths and English coaching
  • work experience

They are open to all 16-23-year-olds, and last between six weeks and six months. Traineeships are unpaid, but you might get expenses such as transport and meals. Some traineeships are designed especially for care leavers.

See the traineeships available in your area on the GOV.UK website.


Volunteering is another way to get experience in the world of work, and there are all sorts of different roles available. You can usually claim back volunteering expenses, such as travel and lunches.

Talk to your leaving care coach about volunteering and include this goal in your pathway plan.

Opportunities with brands

Slenky is an online platform for young people that allows you to connect with leading brands and organisations. It’s a great way to find new opportunities and explore your passions and interests. Find out more on the Slenky Waltham Forest website.