A sense of place
Work experience placements have long made sense for both provider and student: the organisation gains fresh ideas and the student benefits from putting their learning into practice.
In recent years placement opportunities have become more flexible, varied and diverse. While the traditional full-time option in third year still exists on many undergraduate courses, a number of alternatives are also available.
Today’s placement options may be project or research-based and some or all of the work may be conducted remotely. Placement durations and formats are more flexible too.
For smaller organisations in particular, these new forms of placement make it far easier for them to become a placement provider. One organisation that has been quick to get involved is incident investigation specialist, Matrix Risk Control (Matrix).
In recent years the company has partnered with Robert Gordon University (RGU), using its students on research and project-based assignments.
Scott Bruce, Matrix’s operations and assurance manager, said: “Matrix has really benefited from the skills and enthusiasm that students have brought into the business and we, in turn, have tried to make the placement experience as meaningful as possible for them.
“Naturally, there is an element of paperwork and supervision involved but it is very manageable. The overall benefits far outweigh any administrative inconveniences and I would urge other SMEs who have a suitable project or opportunity to consider working with students.”
Two RGU media students are currently filming and editing a promotional video with Matrix while a third, Lauren Jamieson, is spending two days per week with the company as part of a 12-week placement linked to her Management with Marketing degree. Lauren came to Matrix via RGU’s Connect to Business scheme.
“Connect to Business combines taught materials with a part-time placement for around 12 weeks,” she said.
“This format has really helped me to develop my time-management skills. I currently spend two days per week with Matrix, have two days of classes at RGU and work a further two days at my paid part-time job. Each of these are important to me, so I need to ensure that they get equal commitment.”
Lauren also believes that her placement experience has broadened her perspective about marketing and business communications.
She said: “I have been helping put together a marketing plan for a new product, so I’ve learned a lot about the importance of research – and how time-consuming it can be. My own communication skills have also been tested as the research work involves lots of e-mailing and telephone calls. I’m very aware that I’m representing the company and need to be professional.”
Lauren would urge her fellow students to grab any placement opportunities with both hands.
She said: “Regardless of whether you secure a full-time paid placement or a part-time unpaid one, you will gain a huge amount of experience that will play a large part in helping you get a good job when you graduate.
“A placement provides the ideal opportunity to test out the career path you are considering and establish whether it is right for you. Get involved as much as you can – even if you’re asked to do a task you’ve never attempted before. You might find out that you really enjoy it.”