Hassan, 20, completed Street League’s East London Academy with an NOCN qualification in Skills for Employment, a career plan, and the prospect of a four-week work placement with leading soft drinks manufacturer, Britvic. Now into the third week of his work placement at Britvic’s factory in Beckton, East London, Hassan tells us what it's been like to work on site, and how he hopes his experience will encourage others to take up similar opportunities.

What have you been doing at the Britvic factory? I’ve been on the work placement for nearly a month now and have got to work in a number of different sections including production planning, engineering, and health and safety. For me the best part was working in the engineering section. You have to be able to problem-solve and it’s hands on, and that’s the sort of thing I love. When I was with the engineering team we had a small problem of fixing the best before dates on the top of a Pepsi can which took us five hours! It taught me that you can have big problems which can be fixed in 10 minutes, and then face relatively small problems which can take far longer than you expected.

What does your average working day look like? I work from 9am-4pm and get a free lunch in the canteen! Another reason why I’ve enjoyed working in the engineering section is because it’s like being an on-call doctor - if you’re called to fix a problem, you take your break when the problem is fixed. I like having that flexibility of not having a set time each day to take my break. 

Street League graduates undertake a 100-hour work placement which enhances their CV, gives them real-life working experience, and a chance to make a good impression which could potentially lead to employment opportunities. 

How have you got on with colleagues? Before I came to the factory I thought there wouldn’t be that much communication. I thought I’d just come in to work, do my shift and then leave. But having been here for three weeks it has completely changed my mind about what the working environment is like. The people at the factory are all very welcoming. I chat to people, I learn new things every day, and there’s a lot of teamwork involved.

What have you enjoyed most about the work? There are lots of things I love about coming to work at Britvic, but the best part is learning new things every day. You can study something for 20 years but it doesn’t mean you will know everything about that particular thing. I don’t have any qualifications in engineering, so being here has made me feel like a baby learning to crawl, but it’s so good to be learning hands-on in the job. I would love to work for Britvic and I’m currently in the process of applying for an engineering apprenticeship.

Why do you think work experience is important? Coming in to a working environment I’ve learned that qualifications don’t necessarily matter. You find employers tend to prefer experience and now I see why. If you have two people applying for a job, and one has the qualifications but doesn’t know how to work a certain machine, and the other has a month’s work experience and knows how the machine works, you’re going to hire the person with the experience.

Why should other young people do a work placement? First of all with a work placement, a person has to be serious about working. You are working for four or five weeks and you’re not getting paid, but the benefit is that you’re learning job skills and you’ve got that to put on your CV. Even if you think it is a short amount of time and it won’t make a difference to your CV, you will still have gained that experience. If you were then applying for a job within the company, the staff already know you personally which gives you the upper hand over external applicants who they haven’t worked with before.