Purpose: In the UK, concern frequently has been voiced that young people lack appropriate employability skills. One way to address this is to provide work based placements. In general, previous research findings have indicated that young people find such placements useful because of help with career choice and relevant skills. However, most studies are retrospective and involve sixth form or degree students. The purpose of this paper is to extend previous research by collecting information before and after the placements. Design/methodology/approach: This investigation involved questionnaires with nearly 300 14-15 year-old students who provided a pre- and post-placement self-reports about their employability skills and their work-experience hosts provided ratings of employability skills at the end of the placement., Findings: There was a significant increase in student ratings of their employability skills from before to after the placement, and although the employers gave slightly lower ratings of some employability skills than the students, the two sets of ratings were reasonably close. In addition, the students had high expectations of the usefulness of the placements and these expectations were fulfilled as reported in the post-placement questionnaire. Originality/value: These positive findings, extend the knowledge of the effects of work based placements, by focussing on the opinion of the young people themselves, using a pre- to post-placement design, by validating student self-reports with host employer ratings, and by focussing on a younger than usual age group.