Work experience a 'win-win' scenario
16 October 2009
A perfect partnership - that was the verdict of companies which hosted UCL students on work experience this summer.
Companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals signed up for the innovative scheme, which involved hosting one or more students for six to eight weeks.
All the placements represented real opportunities to gain training and experience while earning a stipend of £200 a week from the university.
More than 50 students from a range of different academic disciplines secured placements through the scheme, which was organised by UCL Advances, the university's centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction.
Ari Magnusson and FatStudent
Ari Magnusson, who is studying for an MSc in International Public Policy at UCL, said he took part to boost his CV.
He worked at FatStudent - an 'online recruitment platform for the YouTube generation', which helps students find part-time work near their home or university.
The platform allows them to upload a 30-second video to accompany a traditional CV and apply to any of FatStudent's job listings.
Ari said: "Working with FatStudent gave me a unique insight and experience into the workings of a technology start-up business and allowed me to have a meaningful input into the company's marketing and communications strategy.
"The experience was incredibly useful and provided me with invaluable media/ communications experience. As a result of my scheme, I have been able to further secure an internship at the British Council's political and cultural affairs thinktank working in media and communications, which has been one of my long-term ambitions."
FatStudent's Kes Thygesen said Ari had given them a fresh perspective on the platform and agreed to continue contributing his ideas as the company developed.
He said: "Having recently been in the same position as those students who are now graduating, we can appreciate how difficult the labour market has become and how crucial relevant experience is.
"We were happy to have passed on some of the business and marketing knowledge we gained over the past year and are pleased that the intern has put this to good use and will be applying it in a similar capacity at the British Council.
"Our intern used his previous experience working with student-focused publications to create a public relations strategy. He was involved in writing press releases, contacting student-focused companies and writing content for a promotional brochure. "
I would thoroughly recommend this scheme as it gives businesses at any stage of development the opportunity to attract talented graduates from one of the world's finest universities at no cost."
Cecily Brown and Marmalade
Cecily Brown, who has just graduated from UCL with a degree in psychology, spent the summer working at specialist PR company Marmalade.
She said: "I got involved in the scheme because all my previous work experience had been in various bar/shop assistant roles and I thought some office experience would be really beneficial.
"The scheme also appealed to me as it offered a paid placement, so instead of having to spend the summer slogging behind a bar I could gain some more relevant experience which would be of much more use to me when looking for a graduate job.
"My host company really went out of their way to make my experience as interesting and beneficial as possible. I was directly involved in many different aspects of PR, from internet research to journalist liaison.
"It was great to be able to follow my work through and eventually to see some of the articles I organised come into print. I was given some real responsibility - it really wasn't just a case of making the tea all summer!"
Marmalade's David Pugh described the work experience scheme as 'the perfect partnership'.
He added: "Due to the fact we are a small agency, anyone who does spend time with us will get first-hand knowledge of what PR is like on the front lines - and Cecily was brilliant, she got her hands dirty from day one, showing initiative and willingness to learn new things. I would thoroughly recommend the scheme to other businesses - it's a win-win situation for both the graduate and the business."
Anna Ebbersten and Arup
Anna Ebbersten, who has just started the fourth year of a Masters in Engineering at UCL, was one of several students who secured a placement at engineering giant Arup, which has a long-standing relationship with the university.
One of the most significant areas of co-operation is the development of the new Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability, a centre of research excellence for sustainable technologies.
Anna joined a group co-ordinating the institute's research strategy, which involved analysing trends, writing project briefs and giving presentations to other staff.
She said: "I have written reports and done solution generation quite often in my course, but this has been real and there really is no predetermined answer. I have also been working on an art inventory of Arup's collection.
"My advice to other students would be to be open-minded about their type of placements. Even if it's not a company or job they are thinking of joining it might give them other ideas. Also the skills are transferable."
Arup's Jennifer Schooling said all the UCL interns had a 'pro-active and enthusiastic approach', and worked well as a team to develop solutions, share ideas and ask salient questions.
She added: "I have been very impressed by their professional attitude to their work, and by their ability to work independently to identify issues and propose solutions. Based on this experience, I would certainly get involved in the scheme in the future."
Tripbod, another technology start-up that hosted work UCL experience students, grew out of a company founded by alumna Sally Broom.
Tripbod is developing an interactive website that connects travellers with a 'friend at the other end wherever they're visiting'.
Ms Broom said: "Tripbod is a small start-up company that needed more hands on deck. We needed intelligent, enthusiastic people based in London to support our launch and business growth.
"We were lacking external sales and marketing input specifically and the UCL interns proved an excellent source of analytical advice and entrepreneurial spirit.
"We took on four interns and each were fantastic. They contributed to the development of the sales and marketing strategy, the development of our internal commercial systems and the online Search Engine Optimisation and PR, all of which have been a great success."
For more information about UCL Advances or any of the companies who hosted work experience students, follow the links above.
Image: students gaining valuable experience in the workplace
UCL won a HEFCE Economic Challenge Innovation Fund bid with a programme of activities designed to help prepare students for entry into a difficult job market and to support London businesses during the economic downturn.