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Building students’ work experience through UCL Careers

The UCL Careers Placements & Vacancies team facilitate placements and internships for various academic programmes.

7 December 2015

Rochelle Symons and Charlotte Turnbull explain the benefits of complementing students’ academic learning with an opportunity to see how it relates to the wider world whilst developing crucial professional skills.

What UCL Careers offers

The Placements and Vacancies team support students who wish to take a placement or internship as part of their programme; these include the Arts & Science BASc degree, the LIDO/ BBSRC PhD Programme, the BSc Management Science degree and courses within the Engineering Faculty.

The team work with programme leaders to identify which types of opportunities students may be interested in as well as with employers to promote opportunities and secure exclusive positions just for UCL students.

They also speak with employers about their expectations of the skills they would like UCL students to bring to these opportunities and students then go through the application process formally supported by the team.

As well as administering necessary processes such as duty of care and due diligence for assessed in course placements, the team have created online toolkits and guidebooks to enable students to make the most out of internships and placements.

Rochelle, Placements & Vacancies Manager, explains, “With placements which are assessed as part of a course there is a lot of emphasis in making sure they are a quality learning experience and are safe. With extra curricular internships we focus on student engagement and reflection, and support students with sourcing and applying for something suitable and making sure they understand what they can get from the experience . Students are informed about the benefits of undertaking internships and placements and the support available to them so they are empowered to get the most out of their time.”

BASc: an in-depth look

Charlotte’s role in facilitating the Arts & Sciences BASc internship includes face-to-face advice sessions with students on the course which gives them a chance to talk through any questions, expectations and concerns about internships and the application process. She can also pass on useful information and “check in” with them about how their search is going.

She explains how they are supported: “By understanding what the BASc course specifically involves, I am better able to approach employers and find opportunities tailored to our students’ skills and knowledge. I also arrange a student panel with past interns, who are able to pass on really valuable advice. Complementing this is a weekly newsletter which is our ‘internship digest’ and allows us to directly pass on (often exclusive-to-UCL) up-to-date internship opportunities. We have also created resources and toolkits specifically aimed at students.”

After completing their internship, BASc students reflect on the process and their experience through an assessed video blog.

Those who undertook an internship talk about the work experience and reflect on such matters as organisational culture, connection between universities studies and their internship and the influence of the experience on future plans. Those who are unsure about their future career are referred on to specialist careers consultants who are able to explore career aspirations through one-to-one guidance sessions.

By integrating work based learning into a degree programme, students are encouraged to think about employability throughout their studies.

Undertaking a placement or internship gives them time whilst they are at UCL to explore options, gain skills and better understand and reflect on the sector and possible future roles within the context of their studies and interests.

Carl Gombrich, Programme Director, Arts and Sciences BASc says: "The involvement of Rochelle, Charlotte and UCL Careers has been invaluable in establishing and growing the Arts and Sciences BASc programme. Not only do students gain important experience of graduate work when carrying out their internships sourced by Charlotte and the team, but the collaboration between an academic department and UCL Careers has helped us learn more about contemporary work and recruiting practices, something that should be of interest to all staff and students at UCL."

What to do if you want to incorporate these into your programmes

Many of the academic programme leaders Rochelle and Charlotte liaise with are very interested in the future of work within their disciplines and are keen to explore options for work-based learning within industry.

For staff at the start of the course development process who are considering integrating a placement or internship in to the programme, Rochelle advises contacting the Placements & Vacancies team for advice and possible support.

For UCL colleagues thinking about creating a work-based learning element in to the programme, she suggests considering: “What is purpose of experience? Is it to undertake research related to their degree, to improve professional skills or both? There are many different opportunities available to our students, regardless of discipline. If you have individual students interested in undertaking work experience encourage them to talk to UCL Careers as there are plenty of events, workshops and resources to help them.”