1. Why Introduce Work Placement

There are many reasons why the introduction of work placement should be given serious consideration in degree programmes. These include:

  • The increasing concerns regarding the employability of graduates.
  • The increasing number of graduates, leading to enhanced pressure for graduate level jobs.
  • The misunderstanding by some graduates of their initial role in the workplace.
  • The often misleading impression graduates have of the range of their potential career prospects.
  • The lack of self value of some graduates in the employment market place.
  • Students see the relevance of their degree programme to the work place. This includes both academic theory and skills.
  • It can act as a recruitment tool.

What students say about work placement

For staff and the university the outcomes of work placement can be beneficial in many ways including:

  • Building partnerships with employers which can lead to additional activities such as guest speakers, research links and sponsorship.
  • Student engagement with their academic studies is usually enhanced on return to university.
  • The degree programme attains a reputation with employers, which can affect recruitment, strengthening programme credibility to all stakeholders.
  • Students are more clearly visible in the graduate job market, in some cases jobs are created for specific graduates, and this impacts on graduate destinations.
  • Students develop during work placement in ways which are not enabled by the university environment, i.e. responsibility, commitment and the significance of their role in a team activity.
  • Compulsory year placements attract half fees which can be used to support the work placement scheme.

Challenges in introducing work placement

The major drawbacks are resources, i.e. human and placement opportunties, and uncertainty as to what the outcomes of work placement should be.

Significant human resources are needed to operate a well run work placement scheme. However, the efficiency and effectiveness of work placement schemes can be increased by:

  • Employing dedicated staff to administer the placements. This includes sourcing placements, dealing with students and employers and sorting out all the administrative paperwork necessary for such schemes.
  • Clearly defining why students are doing placement i.e. what are the aims and learning outcomes.
  • All personnel involved in work placement being clear of their role/s and responsibilities and those of the student.
  • Providing clear information to students particularly with respect to their responsibilities.
  • Accepting that not all students will undertake the same placement, hence the aims and learning outcomes must be achievable by students in a range of suitable placements.
  • Having clear approval criteria and processes for placements.
  • Having clear procedures and using templates/forms wherever possible.
  • Ensuring availability of placements by considering as wide a range as possible of opportunities i.e. paid and unpaid placements and the voluntary sector.

Key documents regarding introduction of work placement include:

  1. Queen's University Student Employability and Skills Policy
  2. Work Based and Placement Learning: University Policy and Guidelines
  3. Quality Assurance Agency, Code of Practice, Section 9: Work based and placement learning
  4. NCWE Code of Practice