Human Resources work experience schemeTwo work experience students

Over the last 18 months Human Resources have provided a number of opportunities for current University of Sheffield students to gain various levels of work experience within the department. We participated in the Taste of Work scheme, to offer students a half day of work experience in an office environment, but as a department, we felt that we wanted to offer more. Tracy Wray, Assistant Director of Human Resources says, “We are very keen to contribute to the University’s student employability agenda in whatever way we can. We decided to devise a scheme that would enable students to gain a longer period of work experience, working with HR professionals on real University projects”.

Working in close collaboration with the Students’ Jobshop, a scheme was planned to provide two unpaid work experience opportunities in Autumn 2012 for a total of 10 days. There was a positive response to the scheme from students: 30 applications were received, and 10 students were invited for interview. Students were provided with useful experience from the point of writing their application, as HR Adviser Katrina Gillett explains, “The process [we] followed was very similar to our normal recruitment practice to give the students as real an experience as possible for applying for a job, including providing feedback generally on applications and feedback on the interviews.”

Although it was planned to offer two places, due to the quality of candidates, four opportunities were offered, and students were placed in different teams around the department. From the outset it was key that this was a two way relationship, with students making a genuine contribution to the projects they worked on, alongside a commitment from the department to develop skills and provide advice and guidance to support future career planning.

Upon completion of the placements, feedback was gathered from those managing the students, and the students themselves. The managers were positive about the scheme, and enjoyed working with the students. Managers were keen to run the scheme again. The students were also positive about the scheme, and felt that they had gained useful experience that will benefit their future careers and improve their employability. Three of the four student placements have gone on to secure HR related jobs after graduation, and they all cited the benefits of the experience they gained for use in applications and interviews. HR Adviser Dan Newberry says, “It’s great to see the positive impact of this experience on these students’ employability. A key part of the scheme was about giving the students access to HR professionals, and all of us who managed a placement student have kept in touch with the student after their placement ended”.

It is planned to continue to offer these work experience placements, with opportunities being advertised in September. Tracy Wray says “We didn’t want this to be a one-off scheme, and part of the planning was to make it sustainable. We have taken on board feedback, and made improvements, such as giving students opportunity to work in different areas of the department, which we hope will enable us to continue to contribute positively to the employability of students and graduates of the University of Sheffield”.

For more information on this story, please contact Katrina Gillett or Dan Newberry.