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It’s that time of the year when more than 1,400 University of Chester students would usually be going out on placements across the UK as part of our Work Based Learning module. Our graduates tell us that it’s one of the most important parts of their degree programme; they join their host organisation and become another member of staff, building on the degree-specific skills they have acquired in the lecture theatre whilst developing key employability skills such as communication, organisational skills and team work.

Between October and March, students are busy researching possible placements and applying to organisations for their perfect opportunity.  Our students have found some amazing opportunities in previous years, from developing business plans for start-up companies, to working alongside conservation leaders in well-known organisations; their experiences have been invaluable.

Work Based Learning in 2020

This year, things look a bit different for our current second year students. On 23rd March, when many of them already had their placements organised, the UK entered lockdown. The University had recognised in the weeks prior to lockdown that COVID-19 meant that this was not going to be a “normal” academic year and that our students may not be able to go out on placement. 2020 was going to need an inventive solution to ensure that our students didn’t lose out on any opportunities to develop their employability skills.

This is how a brand-new module – Employability Skills Analysis, Development and Planning – was created. Dr Linda Rayner, Director of Work Based Learning, and Dr Debbie Scott, Academic Advisor, developed this module so that it could be completed remotely, meaning that all students, wherever they were in lockdown, were able to fully engage with the module.

Dr Rayner told us, “We were dealing with large numbers of students but we made sure that small groups would be well supported by tutors throughout the module. Alongside the tutorial support, interactive workshops help students towards delivering a comprehensive career portfolio assignment as their assessment.”

Dr Rayner explained that the new module aims to put the student in charge of defining where their career might take them. It allows them to explore employment sectors relating to their programme of study, as well as develop career ideas and interests, and to critically reflect upon their own skills to plan their professional development. This is all supported directly by their Work Based Learning tutor, the Work Based Learning team, and the Careers and Employability service here at the University of Chester.

Looking to the Future

The development of this new module, and consideration of new ways of working that have arisen during the lockdown period, have helped the University to expediate plans we already had to use Work Based Learning to support organisations and businesses that aren’t able to physically host a student on placement. Virtual placements are just one of the ideas that would enable students to offer help and support to organisations, whilst at the same time giving them an opportunity to develop important skills that are both relevant and career enhancing.

To conclude, Dr Rayner added, “Well done and good luck to all our current second year students who are undertaking their new Work Based Learning module at the moment. We know it’s different from what you expected, but it will give you a chance to really think about your career development, and what you need to do in order to reach your goals!”

If you'd like to find out more about our Work Based Learning Module, come and talk to us at our Virtual Undergraduate Open Day on 12th and 13 June. Register now to book your place. 

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Work Based Learning undergraduate placement Careers employability undergraduate