5 Key Insights for Employability Professionals from the ASET Student Panel

Student feedback is our bread and butter at RMP. That’s why our Marketing Director, Elizabeth Brock, jumped at the chance to chair a Student Panel discussion at the ASET 2019 conference.

The panel, made up of five past and present placement students, discussed the ways in which universities can support students prior to, during and after their placement year.

#1 Have a designated person to contact

If we've learned anything from our panelists, it’s that having a single designated contact for all things placement is a must. Shoaib, our resident placement student, noted that having a consistent contact for support with sourcing, applying for and then completing a placement year was extremely helpful.

This is a brilliant opportunity to build a rapport with your students and really get to know their personal goals, aspirations and career plans.

Katie made the important point that student schedules are often brimming with deadlines, and being sent back and forth between different officers and admin staff doesn’t help. After all, students aren’t boomerangs.

Designated contact officers are also a great way of streamlining the placement process. They play an invaluable role in ensuring students have someone familiar on hand to support them when they need.

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#2 Introduce placement clinics

Some panelists said that it was hard to sustain morale, especially when they felt that they were alone in the application process.

However, business management graduate Alex told us that having regular ‘placement clinics’ at his university meant he didn’t feel alone at all. In fact, he said meeting with other students also searching for placements helped him massively. Other panelists suggested rolling out such schemes at all universities.

Placement clinics help students build resilience and iron out any anxieties they might have about rejection. They also allow students to share their interview experiences and vocalise any obstacles they had come across.

Whilst we live in an increasingly digital world, it seems that physical encounters between students and their placement officers are more appreciated than ever. So, if you don’t already run group ‘placement clinics’ at your university, it is well worth organising some!

#3 Get in there early

We all know the placement journey can be long and stressful. However, international business student Tony said making students aware of the process as early as possible will give them a better chance of tackling whatever is thrown at them.

The panel suggested introducing ‘placement sessions’ for first years, perhaps as part of their freshers’ introductory week. Think of it as like planting a ‘placement seed’, and then sitting back and watching it grow.

How could you plant that seed you ask? Well, Shoaib recommended the ‘no escape’ method for students from the lecture theatre.

No, it’s not as brutal as it sounds. It simply means placement officers taking 10-15 minutes at the start of students’ introductory lectures to give them a whistle-stop tour of all-things placement. This way you reach all the students on the course (or at least those turning up to lectures).

#4 Collaborate to increase attraction

Whilst it may sound like your worst nightmare, some students just aren’t inspired enough to ever consider a placement year. Our panelists put this down to the lack of promotion of all the great opportunities out there.

Tony suggested that universities could team up with employers to deliver presentations on the types of work students can do across a range of industries.

Ignorance was cited as a common obstacle with placement students. Our panelists said that it would be beneficial for students to hear about placement opportunities directly from employers, rather than just from placement officers.

They also flagged how important it is to market events in the right way. For example, an ‘exclusive insight into Microsoft with beer!’ sounds much more exciting than a ‘placement event.’ As Tony said, it’s all about the ‘authenticity’.

#5 Give the right amount of support

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that placements officers tend to meet-up regularly with their placement students. However, the panelists revealed that if they needed extra support, they would rather reach out to their designated contact themselves.

For instance, whilst Masters’ student Vivek was grateful for the support provided by his placement officer during the application process, whilst on placement, he was happier to independently ‘get on with things.’

The panelists agreed that having their placement officers visit the office once was more than enough. Social psychology student Katie suggested that it would help to give students updates on key dates and freshers events at their university. It was agreed this would help students transition back into university life after their placement.

These insights into the experiences of other students give placement officers a chance to step into the shoes of their own students, guiding them towards formulating best practice within their careers services. We hope that the findings we have shared help you do just that.

Thanks ASET for another amazing conference - we can’t wait till next year!