Offer a placement year
Employing a placement student can be a great way to inject new ideas, benefit from subject-specific knowledge or complete a project. It can also help you create a talent pipeline for the future, enabling you to fill graduate roles ahead of the competition.
All of our students have the opportunity to undertake a placement year at the end of their penultimate year (excluding students studying Medicine, Dentistry & Health) in the UK or overseas. Placements normally last a minimum of 38 weeks and students are supported by the University throughout the duration of their placement.
- Creating a placement opportunity
A successful placement is one that is well thought through and provides mutual benefits and positive outcomes for both the student and employer. The suitability of a placement is assessed and approved by the student’s academic department.
Ideas for projects
There are many pieces of work that might be suitable to offer as a placement, such as:
• Conducting surveys, analysing data and producing reports
• Investigating efficiency and cost-saving activity
• Developing new products or services
• Managing or delivering a particular service for a period of time
• Joining specific teams to assist in the delivery of their activities and projects
Developing the placement
When considering offering a placement, it is useful to think about:
The purpose of the placement
Have a clear outline of the work to be undertaken. Desired outcomes or results will provide the student with clarity; enabling them to plan their work and set objectives. It can also provide an important frame of reference to help them reflect on their experience.
Role and responsibilities
Ensure that the role and responsibilities are clearly defined and give the student a good understanding of what they will do in the role.
The role should be of the appropriate level for a student but provide a range of varied tasks for the student to stretch themselves and apply the skills gained during their university experience.
It is important that the student’s knowledge, skills and expertise match the role requirements. Consider whether technical capabilities or subject-specific knowledge are essential. However, don’t be tempted to focus on particular disciplines unnecessarily, as this can reduce the number of potential applicants and you may miss out on candidates who may bring something different to your organisation.
The selection criteria should be well-defined and explicitly state the attributes, competencies, skills or strengths assessed, ensuring there is clear definition and difference between essential and desirable skills/criteria.
Remuneration and benefits
The opportunity should be paid at or above the living wage or, for specific/technical skills or a specific degree, a salary that is suitable for the skills/experience you are looking for. This should be stated at the outset, either as a set figure or an appropriate range that is not too broad. Also include details of any additional benefits, such as a bonus scheme, healthcare or employee assistance programme.
Where there is a clear progression pathway, either in terms of remuneration or role (for example, from placement year to graduate job) this should be mentioned.
There should be no exit fees if a student decides to leave a placement early, unless the training results in professional accreditation/chartership.
Development and learning
Clearly state any opportunities for development and learning and ensure the role provides students with a range of personal and skill-development opportunities, as well as opportunities to broaden knowledge and understanding.
Management, mentoring and feedback
Before the placement commences, identify an appropriate line manager. A comprehensive induction/on-boarding to welcome new starters will support the new student transition into the organisation. Consider opportunities for providing mentoring, appraisal and feedback, such as providing a mentor or ‘buddy’ for the new starter and involving the student in any formal appraisal processes.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Consider how you will attract and support applicants from under-represented groups to be inclusive, fair and support diversity within your organisation.
Ensure your recruitment process is accessible and inclusive and be open to flexible working arrangements, such as flexitime or home working.
Demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), eg through accreditation with an organisation like Disability Confident or Ambitious About Autism, or by having won awards for EDI.
- Year-long placements - what to expect from the University
Health and Safety
Students remain fully registered at the University of Sheffield for the duration of their placement and we have a duty of care to ensure that, so far as reasonably practicable, students are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Once a student has secured a placement with you, we will send you a Letter of Expectation which needs to be signed and returned prior to a student commencing their placement. This sets out the responsibilities of you as the placement provider, the University and the student. It also provides us with assurance that you have appropriate insurance and health and safety measures in place to cover the student during the placement period.
At the start of the placement, the student should be given a comprehensive briefing on the health and safety policies and procedures of the organisation, including site specifics. They will be asked to complete and return to the University an Induction Checklist, confirming that this has taken place.
If you are asking students to opt out of the European Working Time Directive, please let us know and explain clearly to the placement student what this means.
University monitoring process
There should be at least one visit by an academic member of staff to monitor the progress of the placement for both the student and the organisation. This meeting should be attended by the student, their line manager and/or their assigned mentor. For overseas placements, this may constitute virtual contact.
In order for the University to maintain accurate records and effective communication with the student on their placement, we need to know if the main work location of the student changes.
Due to UKVI regulations, the University will contact organisations at certain points throughout the placement to confirm that the student is in regular attendance.
The appraisal of performance is a crucial element of the work experience for the student and should be integral to the structure of the placement. Feedback should be a continuous process and will help to maximise the contribution of the student to your organisational objectives. Where there are formal appraisal processes in place, we suggest that the student be included in these wherever possible.
Students are assessed by the University whilst on placement, which enables them to apply appropriate knowledge and skills from their course in the workplace and reflect on their development of a range of transferable skills over the course of their placement. They are set key pieces of work and are advised to share a draft outline of their report with their visiting tutor during their mid-placement visit. It is helpful if students can be granted permission to disclose internal organisational information for the purposes of their assessment; confidentiality agreements can be put in place if required.
Students will need access to the internet for online learning materials provided by The University. If you are unable to offer students internet access, please let us know so that alternative arrangements can be made.
Resolving issues during the placement
The University is here to support you throughout the duration of the placement and should be consulted if there are any problems. It is hoped that with effective monitoring and communication during the placement, any problems can be resolved easily and with minimum disruption. Review and disciplinary procedures should be applied as for any other member of staff employed by your organisation. Placements should not be terminated without prior consultation between the student, the University and the placement provider.
The University may advise the student to leave a placement if they feel the health and safety of the student is being compromised in any way.
Please get in touch if you have any questions:
Tel: 0114 2220900
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