Over the last 12 months I have been touring the country meeting universities and businesses and introducing them to Placer – the unique app that offers work experience and graduate job opportunities to students in higher education. The mission is simple; to reduce graduate unemployment through access to quality work experience.
Placer has been going from strength to strength since launch, and it has just been shortlisted at The Enterprise Award 2019 – the ‘Oscars for Technology Entrepreneurs’. This is great timing for us as we continue to build the momentum needed to scale-up the work experience revolution.
I shared the good news ahead of my meeting with the Careers team at King’s College London. Kate Daubney, Head of Careers, summed up being shortlisted perfectly: “It’s an amazing achievement and testimony to the resilience and commitment you’ve had driving the project forward. It’s been a long journey for you.”
Kate knows just how long the journey has been because she was involved in Placer right at the beginning in 2015 when Head of Careers at Chester University. Back then I was employed by the National Centre for Universities and Business to help tackle the issue of graduate unemployment. Early research uncovered the likely key to unlocking the issue – work experience for all students. The challenge was how to ensure there are enough opportunities available for 2.3 million young people in higher education?
Those early conversations with experts like Kate, and Kate’s counterparts at other UK universities, helped us to understand how students currently source and enjoy work experience. After mapping the processes, and understanding the market, we identified a severely broken system with very few work experience opportunities available, in fact a fraction of what was needed.
By partnering with universities who offer our co-branded Placer app to their own students, we increase the pool of keen new talent available to employers.
The good news was that through this early solid research we innovated a new business model using technology that could create a new way to provide more work experience opportunities and reach talent from previously under represented demographics. By partnering with universities who offer our co-branded Placer app to their own students, we increase the pool of keen new talent available to employers. Businesses using Placer can then affordably reach more, new and different students to offer their work experience placements. And for the students it’s a free and convenient way to access work experience opportunities tailored to them.
I’ve always said ideas are easy – the challenge is the innovation journey from prototype to pilot to scale-up and the complexities contained therein. We passed through the prototype gate in 2016 with funding from Cisco foundation – enabling us to demonstrate how Placer would work. The pilot gate we passed through with investment from Jisc and Unite Students, enabling us to go live with the pilot from October 15th 2018 with six universities.
In the space of 6 months we already have over 4,000 students on Placer, over 23,000 work opportunities viewed and over 13,000 of these shortlisted for application. We also have organisations such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Creative Industries Federation partnered with Placer, promoting us to their members. Further meetings with other sector bodies are already in the diary over the next month.
I’m very excited by what we have achieved so far in such a short amount of time. To drive an innovative start-up on a new business model is never easy and many challenges are faced on the way. However, we have a great team that can help us get there – from our employees to suppliers, from clients to our investors – who all believe in the mission of what we are doing: to reduce graduate unemployment through access to quality work experience. Add in an Oscar or two and it won’t be long before our work experience revolution will be complete!
This article first appeared on the Unite Students blog.