For Students

 

BEFORE WORK PLACEMENT

Why is Work Placement important?
Placement is an important part of your course, as it gives you the chance to see what it is like to work in an area related to your degree. This will help you make more informed decisions about your career.

Your Placement will also help you to:

  • Put academic theory into practice in your chosen career area.
  • Broaden your knowledge base.
  • Gain an insight into your own personal abilities and aptitudes. 
  • Develop personal skills such as communication, team-working, problem-solving.
  • Get an inside view of the world of work and how it operates.
  • Understand new countries and cultures, if you work abroad.
  • Build your self-confidence.
  • Relate and apply the knowledge gained during Placement to your studies.
  • Be more mature and committed to your studies on return to college.
  • Enhance your CV and make it more attractive to employers.
  • Improve your employability, so that you are a 'work-ready' graduate.
  • Be considered for a graduate job with your Placement employer.   

Why do employers recruit Placement students? 
Employers recognise that students are a valuable source of skilled labour. With a good knowledge of your course content and a genuine willingness to learn, they know that you can make a valuable contribution to their business.

Employers recruit students, because you: 

  • Bring in new ideas and look at 'old' problems with 'fresh eyes'.
  • Have good problem-solving and analytical skills.
  • Are up-to-date on new techniques and technologies. 
  • Are ideal to tackle one-off projects which might otherwise be put to one side.
  • Can help out during busy Summer holiday periods.
  • May be a future potential employee and they can 'screen' you during Placement.
  • Provide them with the opportunity to build closer links with the University.

Can I organise my own Placement? 
Placement is organised by the Placement Officer responsible for your programme. However, you might like to organise your own Placement, particularly if you have contacts with employers through friends or family. You can do this, provided you meet the following criteria:

  • A letter confirming your job offer is received from the prospective employer.
  • The Placement is approved by the Department of Government.
  • The offer of Placement is for the required period of time.
  • The offer is secured before you get an offer of Placement through the Department of Government.

Can I go on an International Placement? 
Most Placements are in Ireland, but some are abroad.  Each year, students go on international Placement and the main destinations are the US, UK, Belgium, Spain and Australia. Many organisations prefer students who have some ability in their language, but this is not always necessary. If you select a organisation abroad, make sure you can afford flights, accommodation deposit and living costs for the duration of your Placement. Also, you will have to buy travel insurance for the period of your trip. If you are going to a non EU destination, for example the US, you must apply for a Visa and there is a cost associated with this. Usually, international Placement organisations use telephone interviews. This will be a different experience to a face-to-face interview and you should be familiar with the guidelines for telephone interviews.

 

DURING WORK PLACEMENT

How much will I get paid? 
Placements can be paid and unpaid.  For paid placements, there is no set rate of pay. However, the standard expectation is that you will be paid no less than the minimum state wage as agreed by the Government at the time of your placement. Ask your Placement Officer for the current rate. Some employers will pay more, which is entirely at their own discretion. Plan ahead and budget on the basis that you will receive the minimum state wage. If you are going on an international placement , make sure you can afford the extra costs involved. Once you receive the minimum state wage, your Placement Officer will not be in a position to recommend a higher wage for you.  For unpaid placements, students will be expected to work three days per week i.e. 22 – 24 hours per week and their employers will be advised not to expect these students to work longer than 24 hours per week.  At the beginning of an unpaid placement, students and their work placement supervisor should outline on which days of the week, the student should be present in the organisation.

What do I need to know about Health and Safety? 

Background Information 
Your safety and health on placement is covered by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This Act imposes duties on employers and employees and there are four main areas covered:

  • A safe place of work
  • Safe plant and equipment
  • Safe working procedures
  • Information, consultation and training

Every organisation must have a Safety Statement, which describes the programme of action in place to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees. This document must be available for examination by employees.

Students on Work Placement

  • As a placement student, you are owed a duty of care like all other employees.
  • When you start work, your induction course will cover health and safety aspects of your workplace.
  • Ask to see a copy of the Safety Statement and read it carefully.
  • Be familiar with the safety rules, especially:
    • The layout of the building
    • The emergency evacuation plan
    • The location of fire-fighting equipment and how it works 
    •  First Aid arrangements
    • Relevant numbers to contact in an emergency
  • Make sure you have a complete set of Personal Protective Equipment (if relevant) and know how to use it.
  • If you identify a safety hazard, bring it to the attention of your work placement supervisor.
  • Avoid behaviour or activities that may harm you or others working with you.
  • If you experience incidents of bullying or harassment, report this to your work placement supervisor or, if necessary, to a higher authority in the organisation.
  • Finally:
    • Work safely
    • Never take risks
    • If not sure - ask
    • If still unsure, call your Placement Officer or Academic Supervisor
  • Remember that the provision of a safe, healthy workplace is a legal requirement and that managers and employees may be prosecuted for non-compliance.

What holidays will I be entitled to? 
Your holiday entitlement is covered by the Organisation of Work Time Act 1997. For each month of placement, you will work up holiday leave.  Ask your Work Placement Supervisor or the Human Resources Department about your holiday entitlement, as well as the arrangements for how to book holiday leave. If it is normal practice for a organisation to have a holiday close-down during the Summer, then you may have no option but to take holidays at that time, along with all other employees.

What about time off if I have to repeat exams?

If you have to repeat exams, you must follow the procedures below:

  • Arrange a meeting with your Work Placement Supervisor immediately, to request and agree time off for study and for exam re-sits. At this stage, you should also agree the return date to work.
  • You are allowed one day's study leave plus the day of the exam, for each subject being repeatedThese days are taken from your holiday entitlement. Any additional time taken must be agreed with your Work Placement Supervisor, Academic Supervisor and Placement Officer and this leave will be unpaid.
  • Blanket study leave is not allowed, regardless of the number of exams you have to repeat.
  • You are not, under any circumstances, allowed to study during work time.
  • Inform your Work Placement Supervisor as soon as you know the specific dates that you will need to take off for your re-sits. Remind your Work Placement Supervisor of these dates closer to the time.
  • You must return to work immediately after exams to complete your placement.

Will I have an exit interview with my employer? 
At the end of Placement, you are encouraged to have an exit interview with your Work Placement Supervisor and/or a representative from the Human Resources Department.

This is an opportunity to get feedback on how you performed during placement and to give feedback on your placement experience. It is an ideal chance for your Work Placement Supervisor to discuss and complete the Student Performance Appraisal form, which evaluates your overall performance and which is used as part of your Academic Assessment . Your Work Placement Supervisor is asked to highlight the skills you have learned and to help you identify those that will benefit from further development.

This is also a good time to ask about future graduate vacancies and to express your interest in them. Make sure to ask your Work Placement Supervisor for permission to use his/her name as a referee on your CV. Agree that you will keep in touch, so that he/she will remember you, when it comes to giving a reference!

If you have a final year project that you could complete on behalf of your organisation, you should have discussed this with your Work Placement Supervisor during the placement visit. Now, at the exit interview, you can discuss it further and, if appropriate, agree on how to bring the project forward.

 

AFTER WORK PLACEMENT

Presentation 
For most programmes, you are required to give a short presentation about your placement experience, either during the academic visit or, more usually, on your return to college. This presentation will form part of the academic assessment of your placement. Your Academic Supervisor will advise you of the specific requirements for your programme.

What is the Placement Debrief? 
The Placement Officer will meet with you after you return to college to have a debriefing session on your placement. You will have a chance to give feedback on your company, the work you did, as well as your overall experience. This will be valuable in helping us develop the programme in the future.  At this meeting, you will be encouraged to relate and apply the knowledge gained during placement to your college studies and to build on the self-confidence you developed in the workplace.  Advice will be given on how to update your CV with your placement work experience, so that you have it ready to send to graduate employers. And you will be encouraged to think about what you would like to do after college and to consider your graduate options .

Why should I update my CV? 
After you finish your placement, it is an ideal time to update your CV with your placement work experience. This may be the first job you have had that is relevant to your course. So, it is a very valuable addition to your CV and will be significant in attracting potential employers in the future.

To update your CV, look back through your Learning Journal and Self Assessment Essay to remind yourself of the skills and abilities you developed during placement. This will include skills that are specific to your course and also personal or 'transferable skills' e.g. communication or problem-solving skills. Summarise and highlight these skills, taking time to word the content carefully, so that it makes the most of your work experience.  Include your main duties and responsibilities, any training completed, achievements or recognition received as well as any initiatives taken by you in the workplace.

What is involved in Networking? 
When you were in the workplace, we advised you to make the most of your placement , by getting to know the people in your team and also those in other departments in the business. This is what we call networking.  Over the past few months, you made many friends in your organisation and it is important to keep in touch with these people and to start off a network of contacts within your industry area. Often, your work colleagues are a valuable source of information on graduate jobs and may be of help to you in the future.  During the Exit Interview at the end of placement, you asked your Work Placement Supervisor for permission to use their name as a work referee on your CV. Keep in contact with this person, as you will want him/her to remember you, when it comes to giving a reference!  If you have a final year project that you could complete on behalf of your company, this is an excellent way to keep the contacts alive and to build on the good work relationships you developed during Placement.

What options do I have after I graduate? 
Most students go on Work Placement at the end of third year and return to college for their final year. Once back on campus, it is time for you to think about what you would like to do after graduation - the main options are to look for a graduate job or to do further study.

If you are interested in getting a job, the Career Services office organises a number of events on campus, such as the Job Roadshows, which runs from November through to February and the Recruitment Fairs, which are held in October and March. At these events, you can meet employers and get information on graduate vacancies or graduate training programmes. Applications for some training courses must be made in early October, so it is important that you find out about these well in advance. Alternatively, if you are interested in postgraduate study, the Careers Service organises a Postgrad Fair in February, where you can get details on all the relevant courses available in Ireland. We also give a presentation on Postgrad Options in the US, which is held in early October. Applications for courses in the US or UK must be made in late October/ early November.  For most courses in Ireland, applications are made in February.

 

SERVICES FOR STUDENTS WITH A DISABILITY

Disability Support Service 
If you are registered with the Disability Support Service (DSS), you might like to get some help and advice, as you participate in the Work Placement process.  

Your Work Placement Manager will work closely with the Disability Support Service to help you prepare for Work Placement and support you during your placement. You can get additional help in the following areas: 

  • Disclosing your disability to a potential employer
  • Preparing for the workplace

 

Individual guidance and support is available to you at each stage of the Placement process. Also, the Disability Support Service supports employers with advice and information on disability issues.

For further information please contact your placement supervisor or the Disability Support Office.

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Roinn Léann an Rialtais agus na Polaitíochta

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