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Common questions about Creative and Design industry placements

This article looks at some of the questions that employers offering industry placements in this skill area have been facing, with potential solutions for you to consider.

Student maturity

Young people working with us need to be mature enough to look after themselves and be proactive. How can we make sure we get young people with the attributes we need?

You can work with the school or college to find students likely to fit your ways of working.

Develop a description of the industry placement you have on offer, along with the basic knowledge, skills and behaviours you require. For example, a commercially funded archaeology team would need their placement students to know how to research, assimilate and document appropriate background information from different sources such as archives, aerial photographic collections, national listings. The school or college could include this focus in the student’s curriculum in preparation for the placement.

You can also visit the school or college (face to face or remotely) for a short Q&A session with prospective students so you can explain how you work, put together a short briefing pack for students about how you work, and interview students either in a group or on a one-to-one basis.

Allocating tasks and projects

The student might not get that much out of a placement if there isn’t always enough for them to do. How do we support them in quiet times and keep them motivated to work in the sector longer term?

One of the benefits of industry placements is the flexibility of the delivery models. You can plan placements around busy periods during the year when you are more confident that the student can undertake meaningful tasks.

The college or school you’re working with, can help you design a flexible placement to fit with your working patterns of work.

You could also devise a suitable project, in partnership with the school or college, for the student to complete while on placement with you during any downtime they have. For example, a student on placement as a Rigger with a Live Events organisation could be focusing on industry relevant health and safety legislation such as the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), carrying out research and documenting draft risk assessments.

Projects should meet the requirements of the placement and the student’s course and keep them motivated and busy. For example, they could create a piece of content in support of their placement or research tasks relating to a past or upcoming project such as reading and interpreting client requirements and producing designs to inform the team of rigging requirements.

Freelancers

I work as a freelancer - how can I accommodate an industry placement when my work schedule is unpredictable?

An industry placement can be shared with another organisation. This means freelancers can often get involved in offering a placement in collaboration with a larger business. For example, a freelance provider of creative workshops uses community venues such as museums or theatres to improve learning around cultural and heritage subjects. A cultural learning and participation officer industry placement could be shared between the workshop provider and the museum/theatre ensuring consistent planning and coordination of artistic and cultural engagement projects.

Together with a school or college, you would agree on the activities the student could undertake over their whole placement (minimum 315 hours) and what opportunity you could realistically support. There are 3 typical models for placements: day release, block or a mixture of both. If the total time for each placement adds up to 315+ hours, you can adapt the model to suit your schedule and the student’s course.

You can also incorporate some remote working into your delivery plan in the event you do not have office space and if the way you work is suitable. This is not working from home, but, for example, if you are a camera operator, a student could support you on location or at a production company’s premises or in community venues if that is where you run cultural workshops.

If you do not know of another organisation that would be able to share a placement with you, talk to your school or college, as they may be able to find a match.

Working out of office hours

We do not work a standard 9-5 work pattern. Hours can extend to 10pm or later, both on weekdays and weekends. How would this work with an industry placement?

Offering hours outside of 9-5 sounds like an ideal opportunity to expose students to the realities of working in the creative and design industries.

It is acceptable for students to work outside normal working hours as there will be variation across industries. In live event production teams, for example, a live event technician industry placement student could be responsible (with supervision) for setting up and stripping out components of a functioning sound, lighting or video system. These generally take place immediately before and after events so would provide a live introduction to industry hours and expectations.

When you’re planning the industry placement, talk to the student and their school or college about how flexible they can be. If the student is under the age of 18, you could request that the school or college obtain parental consent, which should be countersigned by the school or college, student and employer.

Time to supervise

We don’t have time to supervise a student.

You could begin by allowing students to work with your staff, before introducing more tasks that you feel they’d be able to complete with little supervision.

With minimal supervision, a student could be tasked with ensuring the components of a functioning system are collated, tested and ready for final check and packaging, thereby saving the supervisor time and allowing the student to learn about the required components. Over time, energetic, enthusiastic students with a growing understanding of the creative and design industries, should be able to make a more significant contribution.

There are also benefits for supervisors and mentors, such as the opportunity to develop management skills, which may be especially valuable for technical staff who have had limited management experience. For example, to progress from onsite technician to project/programme manager, a supervising technician will benefit from sharing experience, demonstrating problem solving abilities and using effective communication or system.

Some employers have devised schemes that acknowledge, and possibly reward, line managers or mentors who work with students, recognising that the employee has developed their leadership and management skills.

We usually hire graduates

We usually hire graduates because we need a high level of skill, knowledge and creative thinking. Will industry placement students be able to contribute in the same way?

In the creative and design industries, many employers say that graduates have excellent creative thinking skills, but sometimes need to develop ‘work-readiness’. For example, the ability to produce work at speed to meet client briefs or using industry standard software and techniques.

Industry placements provide you with an extended period to showcase specific roles to young people that you struggle to recruit to, to give them a sense of where there are skills gaps in your industry and what knowledge, skills and behaviours employers are looking for when recruiting.

Students who want to work in the theatre, film or TV industries and who have an industry placement in a Props Department for a film company or a props hire organisation would see there are opportunities to work on set, in workshops, backstage or on location.

Placement students will come to you with technical knowledge and skills acquired during their course which will typically be at technician level (Level 3). Student will be able to contribute most effectively if the placement is timed to coincide with classroom-based learning that will be most useful to you.

Confidentiality could limit the technical content

Confidentiality is very important in our industry and could restrict tasks learners can be given and may limit the technical content of some placements.

It’s important for placement students to understand the risks and implications of maintaining confidentiality, for example during filming or design projects. Induction, training and supervision is essential in the same way as it is for all your staff.

Alternatively, you could draw up a confidentiality statement for the student to sign. While it is not legally binding, it could give you peace of mind and affirm to the student how important confidentiality is to your business.

This statement could cover:

  • maintaining strict secrecy in respect of the business affairs of your organisation and clients
  • not revealing confidential information about systems and programme design
  • not using data for personal gain
  • using computer equipment and accessing the internet only when authorised and only for official business
  • your data protection procedures as a result of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the consequences of any breach

Students using social media should be supervised to ensure they understand the confidentiality concerns.

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