Student brings invaluable insight to Greater Manchester Combined Authority
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An interview with Sophie Hope, Senior Business Development Manager Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
The placement role
We started with a role description for the student, based on a real business project. We were clear about what we expected from a student, which was someone to help us use social media for our promotion campaign to young people.
We also needed them to support project planning and events management. A self-starter, someone with the ability to be able to work on their own if necessary, but also confident to contribute within the team. We work at a fast pace so the student would need to be able to keep up.
So we had expectations and were really clear about what we wanted. The next step was the matching process the college did. It clearly worked well as our student was proficient, able and interested in the job description. He was skilled in social media but not in a business setting and was keen therefore to gain experience in working on events which would be helpful towards the achievement of his Technical Qualification.
The placement model
Working with the college to accommodate their timetabling our model of placement was 2 days a week. We buddied up our student with a manager for mentoring support, and as a team we all chipped in to coach him. We also worked with him on a Linkedin profile to start to establish his career development.
Why did we offer an industry placement?
In our role to create opportunities that link young people and businesses across Greater Manchester we were working with the Mayor to develop a campaign to be rolled out across 10 local authority areas.
The make-up of our existing staff teams (Support Officers) is such that we no longer have any young blood within the team. And it was young people, their opinions and views that we needed to use as a sounding board to help us shape our campaign.
We needed a student with skills and interest in exploring the use of social media in a business capacity to support us with our campaign. So, as part of working with our local Colleges we trialled harnessing the skills of a young person to help us understand the youth voice but also with a view to thinking about this as a workforce development strategy for the organisation.
Overall, how did it work for us and our student?
It was a really positive experience but I can't say all of the success of the placement was down to us – our student was great. He was like a sponge and came to us with the right attitude.
At our first meeting he showed us how excited he was to join us and work with us on the campaign. He saw the point in what we were doing. We tried to give him as much experience as possible and early on in the placement programme our student (Ruben) spoke in front of 200 people at our launch event hosted by the Mayor. Only 17 years old he put together his own speech, supported by the team, and helped plan the event which was a great success.
As he grew in confidence that in turn helped with our confidence in him and the work we could schedule for him to do whilst with us. If he wants to come back and there’s a vacancy here I know there would be a job for him. This programme proves that getting a foot in the door at an early age is really worth it! We keep in touch with our student via email and LinkedIn. Ruben has now moved on to higher education, studying marketing at university.
Lessons from hosting an industry placement student
Much needed talent
We need placement students as we want their ideas and input. The youth voice is invaluable to us - and our student had that in spadefuls. Young people have really innovative and creative ideas and add a different level of dynamism to a team.
Be clear about your expectations
We had a real project from the outset so we could be clear about how we would be benefitting from having a student in the team. From there we could also break down activity into tasks over the placement weeks. You need to be clear that what you are asking your student to do is doable so the student can accomplish what they need to cover on placement as well as making sure the project moves at the right pace and can fit their attendance pattern.
Create a plan and schedule – keep it real
You do need to have effective project planning skills to manage activities over the placement. You also have to invest time in planning each week, thinking activities to get it right for you and the student, agreeing and planning work in advance. Its no good waiting until they come in to think about work for that day
Our existing staff benefit so much from working with a student
This was huge for us. Our team developed mentoring skills. One manager in particular has no previous experience of managing people before and this role truly transformed him and his practice. I couldn’t overstate the professional experience this gave him and it was certainly unseen and very welcome.
Involve at least 2 senior managers to support the placement
Having someone else involved with the placement, who may not necessarily be in the team but understands the programme, is useful as diary management can be a challenge and then at least one of the managers are in the office on the days the student is with you.
Encourage others across the organisation to take a placement student
Age shouldn’t be a barrier to ability and we can see that young people offer us a business talent pipeline so my next step is to encourage networking across the wider team internally to support further placements.