CIM North East communications ambassador, Sarah O’Mahoney, speaks with Eleanor Stead, a third-year student at Northumbria University studying Business with Marketing Management and Dr Helen Nicholson, director of Employability – Marketing, Operations and Systems at Northumbria University, to discuss the benefits students can gain from work placements.

Eleanor, who is currently on placement at Skipton Building Society, said: “My year at Skipton Business Society has been invaluable, albeit it has played out under circumstances different than I imagined due to the ongoing global pandemic. I have had to work remotely and although I have been assigned a mentor who I regularly liaise with over zoom, I have not actually met many members of the team.

“Whilst it has been challenging, it has also pushed me out of my comfort zone to become an independent thinker and I have developed a multitude of skills, such as learning to collaborate virtually. It is has also proved to be a proactive learning environment with less distractions.

“However, at times it has made my learning experience harder, as I have had to rely on emails and phone calls rather than face-to-face conversations and meetings where you can build rapport with colleagues. I work closely with the corporate communications team and have really enjoyed providing assistance for numerous campaigns with the marketing team, as well as liaising with the sustainability team to improve the organisation’s environmental footprint.

“I would definitely recommend a year in industry, as it provides an opportunity to put the theory that you learn in the classroom, to use in a working environment. The qualifications that the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offer are also on my radar for the future, as I continue to build my knowledge and enhance my skillset and some of the modules within my degree are also CIM accredited.”

The Chartered Institute of Marketing in the North East has developed strong links with the region’s universities, indeed, its first CIM student ambassador, Ella Surtees was from Northumbria University. Ella was an ambassador during 2019/20 and following her success, she is encouraging students to undertake CIM assessments.

The University has since gone on to appoint two CIM student ambassadors for 2020/21, undergraduate, Chloe Portis and postgraduate, Eloise Hewitson.

Working closely with Newcastle Business School, part of Northumbria University, board members of CIM North East regularly converse with members of the business school and are advocates of student placements to enhance learning.

Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the North East works with universities to support and enhance marketing qualifications and to provide guidance to students who are looking to develop their qualifications when transitioning from university into the workplace.

Dr Helen Nicholson, director of Employability – Marketing, Operations and Systems at Northumbria University, said: “A placement is such an enjoyable and worthwhile learning experience. The notable positive impacts extend to final year modules, employability and salary levels.

“Practical experience provides levels of insight translatable to academic theory, as Eleanor recognises. Recruiters value graduates that have organisational experience through paid internships, organisational placements and vocational work.”

Newcastle Business School, part of Northumbria University, reports upon placements and study abroad in the most recent Graduate Outcomes Survey (2017-18). The employability findings indicate 77.5% of students gaining graduate roles have undertaken either a placement or study abroad, compared to 58.9% who did not undertake either. The Marketing, Operations and Systems department reports 75% of students achieving graduate roles, compared with 66.7% for students who had done neither a placement or studied abroad.

Helen added: “We value all of our students in their academic and onward journey into employment and we are thrilled to hear that Eleanor is benefitting from her placement year at Skipton Building Society. Every student is able to access support from specialist employability and careers advisers through our Graduate Futures Service, who work together with programme leaders and module tutors to enable our students to achieve their ambitions, make the most of their experiences, develop their skills and manage their futures. This specialist support extends five years after graduation.

“We are big advocates of CIM and the wider support network that our students can benefit, particularly when leaving university and stepping into a business environment. It is important, that as well as offering qualifications, there is peer support on offer.”