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Common questions about Business and Administration industry placements

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

Finding the right students

How can we find students with the skills we need for them to contribute to our organisation?

Students study a range of topics including business context, people, quality and compliance, finance, policies and procedures, project and change management and business behaviours. The placement brings this to life, giving students a chance to practice their skills in a working environment.

To make sure students have the skills you require, ask the school or college about the course content and understand what they will be learning and when. You can then work towards offering a placement that is timed to fit with the course content and your business needs.

The starting point is a clear specification for the student including:

  • what your organisation does, its values, and anything else which might help bring your work to life for the student, such as what a typical project looks like.
  • a short role description for the placement, what’s going to be involved, listing projects, activities, and responsibilities.

You can also better prepare students for a placement with your company by:

  • visiting the college or school for a short Q&A session with prospective students to explain how you work
  • working with the college or school to identify which students are ready and able to fit with your ways of working

Work with the college or school to identify and select students that they think will fit well. Consider running a recruitment process appropriate to your organisation, which could be from formal and structured, to informal and light-touch. Ask students for a CV – perhaps offering them a template to complete.

Matching students to our work

What work and activities can students do in our organisation? We have a wide range of roles across different areas of the business. How can we match students to an area?

There are many ways to structure an industry placement to get the right students into the right parts of your organisation.

When you’ve identified the right students, agree with them and their college or school very clear learning goals linking your role specification with their course.

Talking to a school or college that offers industry placements is a good place to start to get an understanding of the types of skills and knowledge students could bring to your organisation and which tasks they could do to support the business.

They could undertake tasks that you might not have the skills or capacity to do, such as cleansing or mining customer data in your CRM system, setting up social media channels, creating and sending out e-newsletters and much more.

You could start students with a thorough induction, then rotate them around the different departments of your business, before giving them an opportunity to specialise in areas that they are particularly interested in.

Capacity to host a student

As a small organisation, we might not have the capacity to host a student for the full 315 hours but want to get involved.

You can share a placement with one other employer to make up a complete placement of at least 315 hours. Both employers would agree appropriate projects and activities that support the student’s learning.

It may be that you can offer a placement in partnership with a larger organisation you supply or work closely with. Alternatively, the school or college can work on your behalf to find a partner organisation you can split a placement with.

Time to supervise

We don’t have time to supervise a student. How do we make a placement work?

In many business environments, induction for an industry placement student is the same as an induction for a new member of staff. Induction is an important part of a successful placement. If you’re worried about the time it takes you could, where possible, combine inductions for placement students with other new staff members.

You could set a project at the start of a placement that allows students to show they understand how the organisation operates and the systems used.

This could mean giving them policies and procedures to understand, asking them to take eLearning modules on topics such as health and safety, or data security, or asking them to do research into the organisation and its customers.

Consider the return on investment which could include:

  • capitalising on existing staff ambitions to progress to higher levels of management
  • using the student productively to add value to your organisation

We usually hire graduates

We usually hire graduates for our business roles, and we’re used to work experience students and internships. Do we need industry placement students too?

In many industries, employers are looking for ‘work-ready’ graduates, but not all graduate-level applicants will have the employability skills or business awareness you need.

Industry placements can help address this because you are giving young people real insight into the profession.

Even if you do not directly recruit students, 315+ hours in your business is a long enough time to give them a true reflection of business and administration work, which will help them understand what roles are available in the industry, what skills are needed and give them the focus to study that specialism at university.

On graduation, they should more likely meet your work-ready criteria. Industry placements can be part of a multi-pronged approach to recruitment and should be considered alongside graduate, shorter work experience and internship opportunities.

Handling sensitive data

Data protection and confidentiality are important parts of our business. How can we make industry placements work if students can’t access all our systems?

Talk to the school or college about your concerns and identify, in partnership, which tasks and projects an industry placement student could do.

You may find there is still plenty of opportunity for a placement to work without the need for access to a particular system or data set.

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

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