Work experience

Your cancer and treatment may have meant missing out on work experience opportunities at school or college. Having cancer at the start of your adult life can also change your ideas about careers and work.

Work experience is a great way of gaining new skills and knowledge of a particular industry. If you're looking for work it can also provide you with references and help your confidence.

"That year became a really positive part of my life. As well as being sick, I got help to go to work, get new skills and improve my CV."


In England, traineeships prepare you for paid employment by helping you to become work ready. They include work preparation training, maths and English and work experience to help you move into a job or apprenticeship.

Traineeships mean that any work experience you do must be high quality and a proper job role. Employers have to give you an exit interview when you finish, or a job interview if a role becomes available. You also get a reference at the end.

You won't usually get paid for a traineeship but employers are encouraged to support you with expenses such as transport and meals.

Traineeships are available to 16 to 23-year-olds in England and run for between six weeks and six months. The opportunity to take a traineeship can be extended up to age 25 if you have a cancer diagnosis. This depends on having an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

There is a separate traineeship programme in Wales for young people aged between 16 to 18 years old. The programme can give you the skills needed to get a job or progress to an apprenticeship or further education.

Supported Internships

Supported Internships are for disabled young people aged between 16 and 25. You can apply if you've got an EHC plan. The scheme is run by further education colleges in England.

On a Supported Internship, you'll spend most of your time in the workplace. and have a personal study programme. Internships can help with your long-term career goals by giving you new skills and real job experience. Supported Internships are especially helpful if you want to improve your confidence.

Internships are unpaid and last for at least six months. Access to Work funding is available to help with extra cancer-related support costs. This includes paying for a job coach, specialist equipment and taxi fares to work if you can't use public transport.


Volunteering is a great way to learn skills and meet new people. There are many organisations looking for people to give their time carrying out all manner of roles. There tends to be greater flexibility in working arrangements when volunteering. Opportunities can vary from a few hours a month to full time. Make sure you agree the time commitment before you start.

Find out what training the organisation will provide and if they will cover any expenses. While there is less obligation for the organisation to support you, one of the great things about volunteering is that it's a partnership. You and the organisation work out what's best between you and most organisations are very supportive.

Jobcentre Plus programmes

If you're out of work and claiming benefits, there are various Jobcentre Plus schemes that can improve your chances of finding work, like the Work Together programme and work trials. You may be able to get help from Jobcentre Plus for costs related to work experience such as travel and childcare.

Finding work experience

When it comes to choosing the placement, think about how much time you can realistically give. This may depend on your stamina and any treatment you’re currently having. It may also be helpful to make a checklist of what could make the experience rewarding for you, for example:

    • meet people and have fun
    • build up your confidence
    • try out new career ideas
    • get skills to help you get into paid work
    • work for a cause you feel passionately about
    • get a reference.

Where next?

Updated January 2018, next review due 2019.