Through my engagement with Edge Hill, I learnt about the upskilling Lancashire Project designed to support SMEs in Lancashire in planning and preparing the workforce for the future. The process started with role / opportunity definitions. For me it was important to engage students in real projects for real clients. With 3 initial projects reduced to 2 well defined opportunities placement advertising commenced. The application process resulted in candidate CV reviews, with selected short listing to 3 interviews per role. Providing 5 rounds of cover letter, CV comment and mock interview experiences was a good experience for all, generating benefit if the effort stopped here. But it didn’t. From 6 potentials, respecting the distance challenge of 2020 5 candidates were taken forward. 3 working on digital brand and campaign and 2 engaging in business infrastructure projects. This enabled us to create two teams, to create multidimensional collaboration opportunities during distant times. The challenge for me and P34B was to create 115 hours of experience, for each student, (575 total) on real projects, with it foreseeably unlikely to be able to make contact in person during the pandemic.
We kicked off in January 2020. Digital canvases, MS Teams and scheduled weekly workshops providing opportunity for us to understand each other, develop ideas, brainstorm options and opportunities and determine a forward plan.
Through workshop discussions ideas and initiative opportunities were converted into workstream plans aligning to personal objectives.
The brand team, a group of 3 engaged well individually and progressively as a team, learning about each other’s strengths, biases, and passions, this led to natural engagement and perspectives being offered during website and brand development workshops, with the website and graphic designer, and subsequently through the combined initiative with Lancashire Careers Hub, U-Explore and P34B partners, to inspire entrepreneurialism in 16–19-year-olds. Campaign objectives were defined through workshops with initiative stakeholders, relationships and respect for each student’s passion and contribution was generated, with leadership in initiative brand, objectives, messaging, questions, posters, flyer, and animation brief being owned by each of the students.
Through the project the students have been challenged to think, enrage, respond, and demonstrate leadership. The stakeholders have accordingly confirmed their appetite to provide a personal reference for each student during May 2021 to endorse the impact and contribution made.
The students working on the busines, and infrastructure project have experienced a very different journey. With engagement and initial brainstorming structures consistent, the emergence of a natural bias to customer relationship management and business and resource planning emerged. A Venn diagram to affirm our we 3 owned and engaged with one another evolved and was received well and clarity for all. Subsequently a methodology of project, objectives, solutions, and deployment ideas was framed, through workshops for each workstream in parallel. This preparation informed engagement in a sprint programme, over 3 days (19,21,22 March) attended by the students and other business
owners to learn about methods as of structures for solving business challenges. Combing this real, structured programme, with exposure to office 365 options and capabilities, external service provides including oracle, then engaging in a structured sprint programme with other businesses equipped both students with ideas, around how to approach, understand, and determine the right wats forward for businesses and owners respectively. As individuals both wanting to create and lead their own businesses in future, this experience has been a good opportunity for them.
The placement opportunities concluded in May 2021.
P34B provided a formal reference for each candidate to endorse their approach and contribution during placement to aid their employment portfolio.
In return each student provided a summary of their experience and feedback. The feedback speaks for itself.
- “I have never completed a virtual interview before. Very professional and was akin to industry standards, so gave me great experience. Excellent experience for future interviews that I will have”
- “Level of support was second to none. Very different from the college placement which I did, felt like part of the project, and worked on a whole live project. Neil always made time to support and ensured that I was on the right track”.
- “I got much more out of it than I ever expected. It was essentially a marketing role, but it was much more. Gave me options to follow different career paths and opened my eyes about my skills and how I could use them in graduate jobs”.
- “Communication skills made my career pathway clear – lots of opportunity to build on the skills that I have with currently working with my dad at his company; and completing the marketing for my dad’s business. Neil gave me support and experience in spades”.
- “No nothing at all was missing from the placement. Liked working on a virtual platform”.
- “The placement made me realise what I would like to in the future. Marketing project allowed me to shape the ideas for jobs that I will apply for in the future”
- “Not what I expected at all but was much better – in a good way. We were given the responsibility of completing the work on our own, but with full support throughout the project. Involved in all aspects of the project, much better than I expected it to be. Enjoyed the level of involvement with the schools and the stakeholders”.
- “Excellent support. Encouraged to develop ideas on our own initiative, but Neil was there if we needed him. Neil was very professional, supportive and we all knew that he was there if we needed him”.
- “Always communicated with me online, by email and in person. It felt like it was a real job because of how I was treated. We had regular check points for development and progress. This was really good”.
- “I wanted an experience that would help me in the future, and I feel like this has. I know that I want to get a job in Brand Management. I generally panic when I am doing something new and that I haven’t done before. I feel that I have more confidence now as I have dealt with stakeholders and professionals and am able to communicate ideas effectively now. I have learned that it is always important to have a Plan B in case Plan A is not developed.
- “Problem-solving skills and communicating in a business forum. Allowed me to interact with stakeholders and developed my skills in working on a virtual platform. My problem-solving skills were not very good at the start of the placement, but they have increased greatly by the end of the placement”.
- “Problem solving abilities improved and how to behave in the workplace professionally. Also, how you can control a situation positively to achieve the result that you want”.
- “Very supportive and wants to help you develop. Very genuine, warm, and helpful. He is very in control of the situations. I learned as much from watching him as I did working on the project”
Creating placement opportunities – we should all be doing this!