We are now into the fifth year of students taking an accredited work placement year, supported and assessed wholly by The University of Leeds Careers Centre. Offering this module has enabled us to broaden our provision and support to students, strengthen relationships across the university as well as those with businesses; locally, nationally and internationally. Many organisations which have taken students on placement through the module stay involved by offering placements in subsequent years.

“I have learnt so much and gained confidence in a professional working environments” – Rebecca, Placement Student

This year, 2014/15, we have 68 students going out on placements which range from a publicity internship with Warner Bros in London, to a design trainee in Norway, to a communication internship with Starbucks in America. Closer to home one student is doing placement with the marketing department at the University of Leeds. Previous years have seen students do placements with a mental health charity in India, the BBC in Washington and work as a language assistant in Carcassonne. These are all students whose access to a work placement year has only been possible via Careers Centre Module (CSER 8000).

The journey started in 2008 when we formed a working group in the Careers Centre and, over the next 18 months, developed the first truly generic accredited work placement module in our University. It was also the most flexible – allowing students to take up to three placements in the UK and/or abroad.

The driver for establishing CSER 8000 was very clear. Knowing that work placements were increasingly emerging as the single most important factor in terms of student employability we were committed to ensuring that all students had access to the opportunity to do a supported and accredited placement year – without the need to become a temporary leaver. Based on our careers expertise in both developing and delivering accredited careers modules, our understanding of the whole work placement area, and with support from senior levels within the University, we built CSER 8000.

Departmental partnerships are critical to the development and take up of CSER 8000. Our first partners were Joint Honours, History, Sociology and Music, all of whom had students out on placement with us in the first year.

Dr. Raphael Hallett, Associate Professor in the School of History said:

“The School of History added CSER 8000 to its module range in 2010 as part of an increasing commitment to providing our students with distinctive and vocational opportunities. As the module grows in popularity, I’m confident it will be a catalyst for introducing Arts students to more explicitly vocational opportunities”

Five years on and with students from across the University taking our work placement modules we are still proud to be supporting academic partners and students through it.

Leeds City Centre

Here’s what two recently returned placement students had to say about their placement year:

“Having just finished my year in industry I have learnt so much and gained confidence in a professional working environments (plus having a salary is an obvious bonus!). It has provided structure and helped me handle my time – which I hope proves invaluable to my final year studies. It has given me an insight into the reality of a career I would like to pursue and will hopefully give me a USP when applying for graduate jobs. I am fortunate enough to have been offered a job within the company once I graduate which is an amazing achievement and I would thoroughly recommend a year in industry to all students”
Rebecca Worrall (Junior Account Executive with Intermarketing Agency)

“Being able to do a placement year gave me a chance to tailor my degree to suit me by enabling me to gain relevant work experience whilst still having the safety net of university. I have benefited in many ways; my confidence has grown, I have learnt practical skills that I can use in the future that I would not have learnt by doing the 3 yrs course and now I know which career path I want to follow. I had an incredible year and can’t recommend doing a placement year more highly”
Rosa Pitts (Assistant Psychologist with Neuropartners)

“Now I know which career path I want to follow” – Rosa, Placement Student

It is refreshing to see the impact our students have on their placement organisation and the high levels of responsibility they are given whilst on placement. This year we have developed the University of Leeds Placement Student of the Year Award to recognise students’ achievements and have been inundated with applications.

We continually seek to increase the number and range of experience opportunities available to our students and this module has been a great vehicle for this. We work to engage organisations in the local community as well as further afield to highlight the benefits of taking on students and support them through the process. Many organisations use this as a way of managing talent within their business and go on to offer graduate roles to students they have taken on placement.

Clair Souter is the Head of Faculty Activities and Teaching at the University of Leeds Career Centre.

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