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This year’s summer placement scheme was a virtual success

Posted by 4MAT Administrator
Posting date:8/11/2020 8:34 AM
Every summer, as part of our summer placement scheme, we offer an eight-week placement to students from all degree years to help them develop a network of relationships inside our company and to get a feel for the professional skills and behaviours required for our Graduate Development Programme.

This year, as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown, inviting 60 students into our offices wasn’t an option. So instead of postponing the scheme, we decided to create our first virtual summer placement. The objective for the two-week work programme was to enhance our employer brand while giving students an unforgettable, meaningful experience of what it’s like to work in our business. 

"The outbreak of COVID-19 during prime internship season meant students were struggling to find work experience, as most companies cancelled their summer internships. We knew we needed to do better. This project was one of the most rewarding I've been a part of. The students who took part now have credible work experience to add to their CVs in a very competitive and turbulent recruitment season," says one of the organisers, Francesca Louise Quinn, Data Analyst, ADS&T.

The virtual format gave the team organising the programme a new opportunity to bring students together for a cohesive introduction to our culture as well as the chance to share issues close to their hearts, from mental health wellbeing to diversity and inclusion. The activities they took part in included Q&A sessions with our managing directors and young professionals; workshops about resilience, personal brand, mental health and wellbeing, and growth mindset; and a team challenge to sustainably expand an airport in a post-COVID world. The students also had access to 11 current graduate and apprentice mentors whose purpose was to guide them through the experience, provide encouragement and advice, and answer questions from the perspective of an employee.

“During our regular summer placements, the students join one division. This year, the virtual placement allowed the students to network and collaborate with peers and employees across our different disciplines, which gave them an exciting look at how projects really work. When the project team started putting together this mega virtual event, it felt daunting at first; but everyone was up to the challenge and was willing to pitch in and help. We’ve not only pulled it off but have inspired many students to come back to join our Graduate Development Programme,” adds Katie Cockerton, Talent Attraction Analyst. 

Read what some of the students had to say about the virtual placement:

"Thank you for this opportunity. It was above and beyond what I was expecting, and I'm very grateful to have been involved in it!"

Eleanor Waring, Civil and Structural Engineering Student at University of Leeds

"Today sadly marks the end of my two-week virtual placement. Having already completed a year-in-industry back in 2018, I was very excited to be back. I'm amazed at how much content and information was packed into the past two weeks. Thank you for putting together such a great experience for us. From workshops on personal development and growth mindset to talks on consultancy skills and presentations from senior members – this placement had it all!"

Charlier Pindar, Fourth Year Mechanical Engineering Student, University of Leeds

"I've been taught some invaluable skills and had the opportunity to work with some great people to complete a team challenge. This involved producing short- and long-term proposals to upgrade an airport for increased passenger numbers and added COVID safety measures. Today we completed our presentations, and I'm so happy to say that our team won the challenge!"

Katie Males, Student at University of Bristol

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