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Common questions about Health and Science industry placements

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

Skills gaps

We have significant skills gaps, especially for technicians. Will industry placements help us?

STEM skills are crucial to the economy and in high demand by employers. It is going to be vital that young people come into the workforce so that updating skills keeps pace with technological change. 50,000 technicians retire every year, and forecasts predict that as many as 700,000 more technicians will be needed in the next decade to meet demand from employers.

At the same time, it is extremely challenging for the education and skills sector to maintain their understanding of the specific skills that health and science occupations need. Industry placements will help you to attract and understand the brightest young people, and to identify those with potential. You will also be able to work more closely with your local colleges and schools to help them better understand how to shape and deliver their courses and curriculums to provide you with a future stream of potential recruits.

“The best technician jobs do not make it on to the radar of most young people. Working as a technician is highly-varied and rewarding with good levels of pay and opportunities for career progression.” Industry
placements provide you with a route and a platform to proactively present your organisation as a high-quality career option.

Specialised skill requirements - healthcare

Our work is highly specialised and needs extensive training and
experience. What sort of tasks can we give students to do in healthcare settings?

In many clinical settings there will be activities that students cannot get involved in, since they require significant training and experience. However, with planning and supervision, industry placement students will develop and be able to take on a wider range of tasks.

At the start of placements, it may be that students spend time observing procedures or patient care. Over time, students can become more hands-on. For example, they may be able to assist registered health professionals to undertake physiological measurement tasks such as: blood pressure, body temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate, oxygen saturation or blood sugar levels.

If work involves contact with patients, consent will be needed, and students should be supervised at all times. Many clinical settings have found that students often make an excellent contribution, in building relationships with and reassuring patients during their care, as well as contributing to technical activities.

Specialised skill requirements - science

What sort of tasks could we give students to do in science workplaces?

In many scientific settings and under supervision, students are likely to be able to carry out routine, established activities. For example, under supervision, they could carry out practical scientific techniques following standard operating procedures, regulatory and health and safety requirements to measure physical properties such as pressure, conductivity and radioactivity, and to identify, separate and analyse substances.

Students may be able to assist with managing equipment in a scientific laboratory environment, carrying out maintenance, cleaning and calibration, one-off testing and analysis of data.

Safety and induction

We work in a tightly regulated, high risk environment. Significant induction and training will be needed before the placement

You will be responsible for conducting a full workplace induction on day one of the placement to cover all health and safety aspects of their workplace. For more information have a look at the Day 1 checklist and tailor it to meet your specific requirements.

The level of induction in a science environment will typically require students to understand how to work safely and how to follow standard operating procedures. So, for example, for a water industry placement, students could carry out repetitive, simulated testing which would familiarise the student with the process and expected outcomes.

In a healthcare setting, preparation might include how to understand and support patient needs. Mandatory training might be needed such as dementia awareness, mental health awareness and manual handling. In some industries a care certificate could form part of a student’s placement preparation, so it is worth talking to the student’s college or school to establish whether this is part of their course. 

You could also offer relevant pre-briefing information about your organisation, perhaps visiting students at their college or school before the placement. It may also be possible for placements to be timed to fit with the student’s course so that skills learned in the classroom can be put into practice when you need them.

The college or school will work with you before the placement so that all three parties (you, the student and the college or school) understand their responsibilities and expectations are aligned and will need to sign an Industry Placement Agreement.

Capacity to host a student

I might not have the capacity to host a student for the full 315 hours, but I still want to get involved. How can I?

There are many small-scale health and science workplaces that could be suitable for industry placements. If you are a smaller employer and don’t feel that you can offer a full placement, you can share a placement with one other employer to make a complete placement of at least 315 hours.

Both employers would agree appropriate projects and activities that support the student’s development objectives. It may be that you can offer a placement in partnership with a large contractor that you are
working with on a specific project. For example, a small pharmacy may be able to work with a large national chain to offer very different placement experiences for students. For more information see sharing industry placements with other organisations.

Diversity

Lack of diversity and inequality is stark in our industry. How can industry placements be part of addressing disparities?

The STEM sectors are traditionally male dominated and there has been a lack of opportunity for young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds, and the health sector has a predominantly female workforce.

Industry placements can help to increase the diversity of your overall talent pipeline and pool. By working with colleges, schools and other providers who perhaps cater for specific demographic groups, you could
identify specific STEM projects for helping a broader range of young people to understand and access placement opportunities. You could, for example, offer to run briefing sessions for particular groups for example, for girls into science occupations, or boys into healthcare; provide careers literature tailored for specific audiences; or mentor students as they apply for industry placements.

We usually hire graduates

We usually hire graduates, and we’re used to internships. Why do we
need industry placement students too?

Industry placements can be part of a multi-pronged approach to your future talent pipeline, part of your mix alongside graduates, apprentices and interns.

The insights you can give them into the realities of working in health and science through a relatively long 315+ hour industry placement, will help them understand what you need from any higher level education or training they might do before they come to you in a permanent role.

Industry placements will give you a clearer understanding of how college and school students are being prepared for your industry and could identify potential high-quality future recruits.

Progression to apprenticeships

How can industry placements support progression to apprenticeships?

Industry placements can provide a valuable apprenticeship pipeline. Health and science employers have been working together to develop and establish higher and degree apprenticeships as viable and valuable entry-routes for many occupations, such as healthcare science practitioners, nurses, paramedics, laboratory and research scientists. Offering industry placements allows you to develop a supply of potential apprentices for specific entry-level opportunities.

For young people who are interested in a health or science career but who have not yet completely decided on a specific route, industry placements offer a chance to clarify and confirm exactly which career to pursue and which further training and learning would work best for them as an apprenticeship or as full-time higher education student. During an industry placement, time in the workplace gives young people a realistic experience of working life, allowing them to develop their work-readiness.

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