Employing placement students

Introduction

Student placements (also known as industrial or sandwich placements) are built into degree programmes to give students practical experience related to their studies. A placement is a period of relevant, supervised work experience assessed as part of a programme of study.

Thanks to UWE Bristol's real world education focus, our placement students can make a real difference to your business whilst putting their newly gained skills into practice.

Like any other job, students apply on a competitive basis so you can use your standard selection process to recruit, eliminating the need for any special practices.

At a glance

  • The length can vary from a few days to a full academic year.
  • Some placements are a compulsory part of student’s studies, whilst others are optional.
  • Most students will be looking for ten to 12 months of work, although some shorter periods are possible on some courses.
  • Placements are usually, but not always, paid and are assessed by the University as part of the programme of study.
  • Students on a sandwich placement can join your team for an academic year, usually between the second and third years of their degree course.
  • Placement students can provide temporary cover, add new skills to your workforce, or offer additional resource to focus on a specific project.
  • Employers are required to provide ongoing support and a mentor for the placement student.
  • If you want to expand into new markets, we have a diverse range of overseas students who can offer relevant language skills and experience of other cultures.

Sandwich placements

Courses with sandwich placement options

Sandwich placement options are available on a wide range of undergraduate courses. If you cannot see the relevant course information to suit your role here, please contact us for further advice. There are many more courses which include a work-based learning element.

What to do before a sandwich placement starts

You should ensure appropriate provision for the student’s health and safety is in place. We will arrange for both you and the student to sign a student placement and health and safety agreement, as well as providing you both with an information pack before the placement start date.

We would also advise that you and the student discuss your aspirations and expectations for the coming year, helping the student to set some objectives and providing on-going feedback during the year.

What happens during a sandwich placement

Although students on placement are enrolled on an academic module related to their placement, you are not expected to provide extra time for this academic work to be completed. However, you and the student should reach an agreement around whether the student will have access to data or departments to support their academic work, ie use of data to complete reports or dissertations.

Employers in the UK may need to host a visit from UWE Bristol to discuss placement progress. Towards the end of the academic year, you will be asked by the University to provide feedback on the student’s performance.

Placement tutors

For longer ‘sandwich’ placements, employers in the UK may be asked to host a visit from a member of the academic team to discuss placement progress.

Where applicable, further arrangements will be made with you and your student during the placement period.

Benefits

Employer benefits

Our students are renowned for being workplace ready. Taking on a UWE Bristol placement student is a low-risk, cost-effective recruitment solution where you gain high-quality staff without making a long-term commitment. The scheme is an ideal way to recruit a motivated, intelligent employee with excellent IT skills and up-to-date sector knowledge.

Employer feedback shows our students work hard during their placements and can hit the ground running – and it’s a great way to develop relationships with, and assess the performance of, future graduates over an extended period.

The benefits to you of employing a placement student include:

  • gaining a new and motivated staff member
  • developing your brand reputation and awareness of your organisation in the student community
  • gaining a fresh perspective on the company or a specific project
  • the potential of new and up-to-date technological advice
  • the potential to recruit from a flexible and diverse workforce
  • enhancing your corporate social responsibility by employing a student and offering them a meaningful experience
  • completed projects that could give a considerable return on their investment.

Student benefits

You'll help a student to:

  • gain meaningful work experience aimed at improving their employability and skill development
  • network with like-minded colleagues who want to progress their career
  • gain real life work experience to enhance skills learned at university (applying theory to practice)
  • make better informed decisions about future career choices
  • identify and develop their transferable skills
  • improve self-confidence and sense of responsibility
  • boost CV and career prospects.

Recruitment

Suitable projects

In order to provide the student with a meaningful placement and to ensure your business benefits from your recruitment of a placement student, we recommend that any project/role has defined objectives and responsibilities and a designated supervisor or mentor. The placement student should be regarded as a regular employee and undertake a real job, with real responsibilities, appropriate to their level of experience.

You should think about what the job seeker will be looking for:

  • A clearly defined role and description of the work they will be doing
  • A feel for what makes the opportunity interesting, exciting and relevant
  • An indication of salary and other benefits
  • A sense of the company values and ethos

Recruiting students

Advertising placements to our students via UWE Careerhub is free. If you are not already registered, you can sign up to the Careerhub online. It is quick and simple and the system enables you to manage multiple vacancies.

  • Go to Careerhub
  • Register your company and submit for us to approve
  • Select the 'notify a vacancy' option on the left hand menu when you wish to add a vacancy

We offer additional services such as targeted direct mailouts to students, employer drop-in events and interview facilities, some of which may incur an administration charge.

Recruitment for the following year can start as early as September.

Your organisation would use your own HR policies and processes to recruit the student. 

Costs and timings

The University will help you to recruit placement students for free, though you will need to pay your student a fair wage. National Minimum Wage (NMW) legislation states that any placement undertaken as part of a course of study is exempt from NMW. However, we recommend that you select a competitive salary to ensure you attract high-calibre candidates.

We suggest you take into account their basic subsistence level requirements and compensate the placement student appropriately. The majority of sandwich placements are paid, and will attract a salary of between £15,500 and £18,500 per annum.

Placements can commence from the end of the academic year, after examinations in June until September. There is no set maximum length but students are expected to return to studies by September the following year.

Approval

All placements must be approved by UWE Bristol and the student will complete the necessary paperwork. You will be emailed the health, safety and conduct agreement form to complete once the placement has been approved.

Before placement

To ensure that the student is fully prepared for their placement with your organisation, it is important to have:

  • a detailed job description if this hasn’t already been provided at application
  • clear and concise details of working arrangements, for example dress code/remote working
  • start date and end dates
  • expected working hours.

During placement

A full induction will assist the student to settle in as quickly as possible and help them to feel like a regular staff member. Please ensure that the student has knowledge and access to appropriate HR policies and processes, including wellbeing, annual leave and absence reporting. We have included a checklist below for reference.

Student induction checklist

Before arrival on placement

  • Ensure log ins are set up (computer IDs/email addresses).
  • Mentor/line manager support is available and prepared for their arrival.
  • Agree where they will work (location of workstation, office/remote).
  • Arrange access to buildings/staff IDs cards.
  • Arrange parking/permits.
  • Confirm dress code expected.
  • Ensure UWE Bristol documentation has been completed.

On arrival

  • Reception staff are expecting them to make them feel welcome.
  • Introductions to key staff to start networking.
  • A tour of the office, including fire exits.
  • Staff ID cards/security arrangements if any.

Induction process

  • Introductions to the team/wider office
  • Confirm core working hours and break times (the unwritten rule of taking lunch)
  • Holiday entitlement/authorisation (processes to book and expectations for restrictions on leave)
  • Sick leave (processes who/when to notify and return to work process)
  • Direct them to location of your workstation/pc (or structure for remote working)
  • Working hours (lunch/breaks, tea/coffee arrangements, local shops
  • Explain log in processes/email address access
  • Use of telephones/how to appropriately answer calls to represent your organisation
  • Work policies – disciplinary, grievance, equality, use of IT and smoking
  • Introduction to/share details of how to contact HR
  • Overview of department/activities and work cycles
  • Organisational structure/corporate objectives/mission statement
  • Jargon/acronyms/special terminology
  • Agreement of role objectives and target (realistic ‘mutual’ deadlines)

Health and safety

  • Inform of health and safety processes (fire escapes/assembly points/alarm meanings/raising alarms)
  • Health and safety representatives/first aiders
  • Emergency security numbers (internal and external)
  • Accident and hazard reporting
  • Mental health policies and support available (such as Employee Assistance Programmes)

Record keeping

  • If the organisational circumstances change, for example change of line manager, or any concerns/enquiries with lack of attendance, please ensure to contact the Placement team, your information will be treated confidentially.
  • In cases of serious breaches of discipline by the student and/or failure to attend as agreed, you will inform the relevant UWE Bristol team. In particular, any instance of unplanned absence must be reported to the University on the first day that the student fails to attend so that this can be immediately investigated. The UWE Bristol team contact details will be contained in any email communications regarding this activity.

Printable checklist

Download a printable version of this checklist (PDF)

Job expectations

The primary aim of the placement scheme is to offer students and organisations a mutually beneficial experience. Introducing your student to the structures of working life and helping them to develop transferable skills, personal qualities and competencies will contribute greatly to their graduate employability.

Your student will usually have accepted this opportunity based on the job advert and/or interview so the responsibilities and tasks should reflect what was advertised and discussed. Goals should be clear and concise and discussed to ensure your student is happy and feels capable of achieving them. If goals are changed, then the reasons should be made clear to avoid any miscommunication.

You could consider utilising their skills, knowledge and fresh ideas by giving them responsibility for:

  • a specific project of piece of work
  • a variety of projects, developing their skills more broadly
  • assisting more than one team, helping them understand how to coordinate with a range of staff.

If you would like further clarification around their course and the appropriateness of the work your student can share their programme specification with you.

Monitoring progress

For some students this may be their first experience in the workplace, so a workplace with (daily) tasks and clear objectives can help. We also recommend regular reviews and contact throughout the placement to ensure that they are settling in and progressing well. This is also a great opportunity for them to make you aware if they are struggling with their work. We encourage the celebration of successes but equally highlight that the student be considered as any other employee would and be subject to the same policies and procedures such as disciplinary and grievance.

We do ask, however, that if you are considering disciplinary action or making the student redundant that you contact us immediately. In cases of serious breaches of discipline by the student and/or failure to attend as agreed, you will inform the relevant UWE Bristol team. In particular, any instance of unplanned absence must be reported to the University on the first day that the student fails to attend so that this can be immediately investigated. The UWE Bristol team contact details will be contained in any email communications regarding this activity.

At approximately six weeks into the placement, you will receive an employer survey to evaluate the how your student in settling in.

Placement project

Most students are required to complete coursework or projects related to their placement. The format this takes will vary but typically the student will need to undertake some research about their placement organisation.

Whilst we do not expect the student to be given time during working hours to undertake this research, we do ask that you be as supportive as possible about their commitments to this work. They may need access to data, or to speak to key people of departments to support their academic work, so you will need to reach an agreement with your student on what you can accommodate.

Management and mentoring

Whilst your placement student is not a permanent staff member, they still require good management. Their line manager should be their go-to for work related queries and should be responsible for the project planning, task setting and monitoring.

As this may be their first experience of professional working environment, where possible we also recommend assigning a separate staff member to act as a mentor to assist them with their integration into the company.

The benefits of a mentor are two-fold:

  • They provide the student with someone who can guide them and support them, someone who can answer queries and concerns, assisting them to become productive as quickly as possible.
  • This is an excellent development opportunity for your employee and can be their first steps into management.

In addition, we suggest that you or the mentor hold regular meetings with the placement student to ensure they can keep up with the work, are completing it to a good standard and are happy and thriving. It also offers the opportunity for revision of the tasks if other things become a priority or to identify any support needs.

A learning contract may benefit you and your placement student: by understanding what they are looking to gain from the experience you can ensure your priorities are in alignment.

End of placement

Whilst we expect that you will have had regular reviews throughout the placement, towards the end, a final review meeting will be beneficial for both you and the student. This will mean you can review their projects and understand what they have achieved as well as also offering you the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics, such as:

  • the skills they have developed and can take forward (transferable skills)
  • how they might be better prepared for the graduate job market following this experience
  • whether or not they have met the goals and targets that were outlined at the beginning of the process
  • their strengths and development areas.

In addition, an exit interview held by someone in a position of authority can provide you with the opportunity to identify aspects of the placement that have worked well or not so well and to gain useful insight into your organisation. We will send you an employer survey around this time, for completion for each student recruited.

References

A reference will be an extremely useful tool for your placement student when they are looking for future employment. You are not required to write a reference but if you feel their work merits a reference then please include as much detail as possible. This may include comments on the work they undertook, the outcomes and their achievements as well as their general work ethic and demeanour.

Contact and support

The Placement team is available to provide support to employers and students throughout the placement. Should you have any questions or concerns about recruiting a student or any aspect of the placement schedule, please do not hesitate to contact us.