Martine Mayo, Work Placement Team Leader at Cheshire College South & West (CCSW), tells us about the importance of engaging employers to undertake work placements.
When it comes to work placements, everything we do is down to the good will of the employer. Employers offering meaningful placements will often see the most benefits – allowing them to develop relationships and play a part in their future talent pipeline.
Davinder Lotay, Managing Director at Altimex and MJ Lighting, has worked closely with CCSW and agrees that these placements can be mutually beneficial:
“By spending time with members of staff in different departments, learners gain an insightful perspective on how businesses function when they come on a work placement with us. They are able to enhance their practical skills by applying the theory they have already learned. Most students partake in business processes, product design and manufacturing for clients and therefore gain experience in real-life work.
For us as a business, the placement creates an opportunity for staff to gain experience on mentoring, supervising and coaching the learners. The learners become an integral part of the workforce and are encouraged to participate in meetings to which they bring a refreshing outlook. I have certainly noticed that staff morale and motivation increase when we have students on work placements and it also supports our corporate social responsibility.”
There are numerous ways I work with employers. Once I have had initial meetings with an employer, I keep in contact with them by updating them on processes and making sure they feel supported. Just like every learner, every employer is different and may require varying levels of support.
When I started working in work experience, I was networking in the traditional sense at the Chamber of Commerce networking events. I then began attending specific industry events, which I found advertised on LinkedIn and Facebook, and I also researched networking groups in my local area and beyond. I met representatives from industry working groups and groups linked to our Local Enterprise Partnership such as Skills for Care, STEM ambassadors, and The Pledge, whose aims are to connect employers with young people and offer them a wealth of experience and contacts.
Over the years I have built relationships with key community partners such as Council Representatives, Town Council Representatives, national organisations such as The Army, as well as charity and community groups. Attending community meetings can result in placement opportunities, as attendees sometimes hold events that students are able to support in different working capacities. For example, if a building renovation project is being led by a charity or local council, they could put us in touch with the construction company, therefore creating a potential employer link.
I find that charities have open doors for students and are willing to offer them work experience. Charities are often sympathetic and understanding environments so they can be a good option for students whose anxiety or lack of confidence is holding them back from starting work. These placements are beneficial to both the student and the charity. An example of this is when we completed a two-year renovation project with Cheshire Wildlife Trust – creating a joinery workshop from an old milking shed – which appeared on Countryfile. This came about from an advert on a volunteer site looking for a joiner. So, I would recommend building links with your local volunteer coordinators; our volunteer group even built us a specific landing page for our students.
Going back to my first point, everything we do is down to the good will of the employer and the opportunities they afford us. Therefore, supporting the employer is paramount and there needs to be clear communication and direction for the employer as well as an assigned point of contact. By involving employers in education, we are doing the best we can for our learners and giving them the opportunities they need to develop and be ready for the world of work.
Read more about how offering students work placements can benefit employers in our guest blog by Davinder Lotay.