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    First featured in our latest magazine thebusiness.

    Longer work placements lead to ‘business ready’ graduates

    Higher and further education bosses have called on businesses to offer more student work placements in a bid to add value in the Thames Gateway.

    The appeal was made by representatives from the University of Greenwich and MidKent College at the firm’s TSP+ Forum.

    Speaking to leaders from both the public and private sectors at Shorne Woods Country Park near Gravesend, Professor Alan Reed, Director of Regional Development at the University of Greenwich, urged more businesses to offer year-long work placements to students as part of a ‘sandwich’ approach to their degree studies.

    He said: “There is often the complaint from businesses that they do not benefit from short-term work placements as the students take time to get up to speed. However, businesses that offer longer work placements to students say that they see a big difference in the individuals and get much more out of the process.

    “There are real benefits to employing a student at a cost of only £12,000. These undergraduates bring new ideas and can sometimes offer a fresh perspective.

    “Employing a student for a year also allows the company to have the undergraduate on a year-long probation, in effect, taking a long-term look at their suitability for the role before deciding whether to employ them. When these students graduate they are more employable as they are more ‘business ready’.

    “Today we have a much greater number of smaller organisations, right down to microbusinesses that are not familiar with dealing with universities and not sure what undergraduates can offer them. Currently there is a shortage of businesses offering placements. Building a relationship with these businesses is a hurdle we are trying to get past.”

    Nick Horton, Head of Dispute Resolution at Thomson Snell & Passmore, who chaired the TSP+ Forum, said: “Despite the downturn, one of the challenges facing businesses in Kent and Medway remains recruitment, particularly of highly skilled workers. Any initiative that brings higher and further education providers, their students and businesses across the county together is to be congratulated.

    “Linking such competent graduates with Kent businesses will undoubtedly help to add value to the Thames Gateway area and retain skilled workers in Kent and Medway.”

    Sue McLeod, Vice Principal, MidKent College, also spoke at the TSP+ Forum, telling delegates how the academic institution was working to add a business element into its courses.

    The college, which has campuses in Medway and Maidstone, has a ‘work ready’ focus in all its courses across a wide range of subjects and has increased the number of apprenticeships available through links with companies across the county.

    Sue McLeod said: “We are increasingly looking to meet the needs of business. The key is to embed employability skills into flexible vocational degrees, which means offering programmes that have been written jointly with industry and including work-based assessments. We are keen to forge more partnerships with business to provide meaningful work placements.”

    To find out more, and discuss your business needs further, please contact MidKent College on 01634 383133 or Greenwich Research and Enterprise department at the University of Greenwich on 020 8331 7867. You can also contact Kamal Aggarwal, Partner in Dispute Resolution and Head of our Thames Gateway office on 01322 623702.

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