Much of the academic research undertaken in the School of Computing, Telecommunications and Networks is practitioner based; that is, it is designed to improve the student learning experience and the quality of the education that we can provide. The Innovations in Computing Education (ICE) group leads the way in this field, covering areas are varied as student professionalism for employment, to helping staff to create engaging assignments and integrating the use of social media into the computing curriculum.
ICE recent research into sandwich year placements across the UK, carried out by Kawal Banga and me, leads the way for this. Sponsored by the Higher Education Academy, the research aimed to identify what higher education institutions are doing now regarding assisting students to achieve a year working with a commercial company during their course, and the best practice that is available from elsewhere across the sector. The results have been fed into our own degree Computing courses at Birmingham City University, all of which offer students the opportunity to spend a year working in industry.
Based on a survey 79 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) around the UK who are currently offering placements responded to, the research identified the following Top 6 resources necessary to help students to achieve a placement position.
1 – Application and CV Advice (100%)
2 – Presentations from employers (95%)
3 – Interview techniques training (93%)
4 – Student placement handbook (88%)
=5 – Student placement web portal (71%)
=5 – Work skills workshop (71%)
The figures shown represent the percentage of the HEIs offering that type of support to their own students.
Placements At Birmingham City University
At Birmingham City University, we provide access to all of these Top 6 resources for our Computing students.
The core module, Research and Professional Practice UG2, on BSc Computer Science, BSc Business Information Technology and BSc Information Communications Technology, provides training to help students to achieve a placement, including application and CV advice, interview techniques support and work skills workshop. Access is also available to the existing placement handbook and placement Moodle support site, offered through the full time placement office. Additionally, the university Career Service provides their own training sessions on those areas, along with free services such as CV and Application Form checking.
Students also benefit from the industrial links on those courses, allowing guest speakers to be brought in to speak to students. Recently, one of the UK’s leading experts on Graduate Employability, Steve Rook, came in to talk to Computing students about how they could achieve their dream graduate and placement positions.
My feeling is that a placement year is going to become essential for students looking to move into a high powered graduate career. Many companies are already using the placement as a way to select the best students to join them after they graduate. They are treating this like a year-long interview. I always encourage students to try their best to get a suitable placement and will continue to strongly recommend this.
Further Research Resources