I really enjoyed my 12 month Industrial Placement with Volvo Group UK. From day 1 within the HR department I was given responsibility and during my first week I was even sent on a 2 day interview training course! This set the tone for the rest of the placement which really evolved into me becoming a fully integrated member of the team; not just a placement student!
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From start to finish my contribution was valued not only by the HR department, but by the wider business areas too. This was evident from the consistent praise and constructive feedback received from HR Business Partners, to Managers and Directors from all brands within the Volvo Group.
As a placement student I was invited on a 'team day' which was an overnight stay in Leicester and involved lots of team activities such as driving a land rover blindfolded to clay pigeon shooting. To have this opportunity is a clear example that my colleagues valued my contribution to the team.
Also, as a result of my continued hard work and commitment to the role I was nominated by the HR Director for the CIPD People Management awards. From this I have become a national finalist and amongst the top 6 most outstanding HR Students within the UK. I really couldn't have done this without the support of my colleagues so I would definitely say that throughout my placement, I felt very valued by the company.
Although I reported into the HR Director, the company was proactive and assigned me a mentor who was a HR Business Partner. As time went on my mentor met with me on a very regular basis to discuss my progress and plan for the future in terms of support and potential training needs. I found this relationship very beneficial as I was able to still manage my projects independently but always had accessible support.
Throughout my placement I always had multiple projects or tasks to work on which kept me very busy. The main project for the HR student is to review the student recruitment process and fill the next round of intern vacancies. As my role was new to the business, I spent a large amount of time looking into improvements and experimenting with new processes.
If ever I found that my projects were coming to an end I would always ask if I could help in any other way and encourage the department to get me involved in as much as possible. I would recommend any placement student to take this action as it really does allow you to develop as an individual and keep you very busy!
The amount of responsibility that Volvo Group UK gives you is really dependent on you as an individual. In terms of my experience, the HRBP's were very trusting in me and therefore allowed me to participate in some adhoc tasks which were at times business critical; for example calculating the annual bonus payments. Therefore, the amount of responsibility I had through out my time with the company is vast.
To give a brief overview, I was trusted to fully manage the following projects:
- Introduce a new student recruitment strategy
- Design and execute a new 2 week student induction programme
- Create a new review process for students and managers
- Design a 'progress day' for students to develop key employability skills
- Be the primary editor for the UK Employee Centre
- Map the UK Employee Centre
From having this responsibility, I have really developed as a person and can now confidently cope with responsibility.
I was very lucky during my placement to have had access to a number of different training courses from interviewing to managing conflict. As always, the training available to students is dependent upon relevance, availability and assessed on a case by case basis.
However, my manager was very much supportive of my learning and proactively booked meetings to review my progress. This will really help me with my degree studies as I am now a much more confident individual who has the ability to implement new learning within a business.
The atmosphere within the office is very friendly and accommodating for new faces. I would recommend for any students to always smile and say hello to fellow employees as it definitely impacts on your individual experience.
As I was always willing to have a conversation with people I didn't always know, it really helped me as my placement went on and I needed to access employees in the wider network as I had got to know key contacts in all the different business areas.
Generally within HR the atmosphere is great but does have quieter times which you really appreciate during busier periods! There is always plenty to eat in terms of cakes and biscuits and the caring nature of the colleagues here will not leave you without a drink for long!
As my role was new to the business, initially the placement could have been structured a little more so that I knew what responsibilities I had from the outset (to help me calm nerves and anticipate what is to come). However, this really taught me how to deal with ambiguity which is a crucial skill to have in HR and will serve me well in my future career.
As time went on my mentor really adapted well to her new role as my workplace supervisor. The workload was managed a lot better, the review meetings became more structured, and I was really submerged into working life on 'planet Volvo'.
I can only speak of my experience and I can honestly say that this company has gone above and beyond what I would have expected from a placement provider.
From having been sent on numerous training courses to being nominated for the CIPD People Management Awards, Volvo Group UK has been very conscious of my learning and development as a HR Professional.
However for me it is not always about the courses of awards which measure the amount a company invests in you. My team really took the time out of their day to teach me new systems and ways of working.
Even during busier times when the workload was quite large, the HRBP's would always offer to work over with me and support me in any way they could. Although the large majority of times I would be absolutely fine, it was great to know I had a support system in place to help me do my job to the best of my ability.
Although I would have loved to return to the company, currently Volvo Group UK does not have any graduate schemes and are careful with the head count so any near future employment prospects look limited.
However I am sure that one day I will return as a HR Business Partner as and when a vacancy comes up. This is simply because of the positive working culture within the business and being able to work with very passionate colleagues who many of which have been employed for a large amount of time by the business.
Unfortunately due the limited number of placement students (8) on my intake, the social scene was not really established. However, I had a very good social life with work whether it be buffets at lunch with the team or going for a meal / baby showers.
However as part of one of my projects I was really conscious of this factor of my experience and have now ensured that the new intake of students (24) have a really engaged with each other and meet outside of work. This was directly as a result of the new 2 week induction programme that I introduced to establish collaborative working relationships between all students regardless of their department. Since then, the students have been going out regularly for meals and nights out which is great. However, the score of 5 for this area is reflective of my experience of student socials....
The placement is located in Warwick where generally the cost of living can be more expensive if you choose to live here.
As I live within a commutable distance I was able to stay at home for my placement which made managing money much easier; allowing me to socialise a lot more and go on lots of nice holidays! :)
Again, I was conscious of the cost of living for students around here and encouraged all new students who were moving to the area to text/ email each other and look into the prospect of living together (house sharing). I feel this is a really good opportunity for students and having spoken with those who have done this, it has reduced the cost massively and allowed them to make new friends.
I can't really speak of the nightlife in Warwick as I never really went out socialising here however I have heard good reports.
There are a lot of nice pubs around and restaurants which work meals tend to be held at. However in terms of nightclubs you would have to travel to Coventry by car/taxi for more of a student experience.
The office in Warwick is close to a residential area and not far from the centre of Warwick Town Centre.
In terms of meeting outside of work I have been on quite a few meals with my team. I would recommend any placement student to attend these events if they can as you can get to know your team better and have a laugh with them (being on placement is not always work work work believe it or not!).
However my department were exceptional on trying to have social events/celebrations in house some colleagues aren't always available after work so quite often we would have buffets/cakes together.
I know that going forward the business is looking into activities centred around family and community so I can only imagine that the amount of opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work will increase.