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St Mary's University

From Volunteer Placement Student to Full Time Employee

How remote working had a successful outcome for 2020 graduate Joe and his placement provider, Engaging Works.

Joe Ross working from home

International Business Management graduate Joe chose to complete a Workplace Learning module in his final semester, involving a voluntary work placement. Being familiar with the challenges of finding a relevant and interesting placement after completing one in his second year, Joe proactively sought out his placement with a clear idea of the experience he wanted to gain.

Starting his placement in January meant that like many, Joe’s experience was affected by the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. However, Engaging Works provided Joe with work to complete at home and with the support of his Supervisor Holly, he was still able to gain a lot from the experience.

Joe, why was the placement a positive experience for you?
It offered me the opportunity to gain skills and experience that I wouldn’t have been able to attain at university, nor in any of the part-time jobs I could do on weekends. On a personal level, I was very happy with what it did for my career path - having spoken to Holly several times about what I wanted to do, as well as doing so many different tasks whilst on placement, I discovered that data analysis and general research was what I wanted to pursue.

Once lockdown was imposed, how did you find the transition from working in the office alongside colleagues to working alone at home?
Having already had to leave university and do a lot of remote learning, continuing the placement at home was made significantly easier. I did at times struggle with certain tasks, and it is easy to become distracted and unmotivated when at home (and with everything else going on) but it helped that the team was really understanding and did not expect too much from me.

How did your Supervisor Holly support you and enable you to still feel part of the team?
Holly and also Anna were always reassuring me through emails and phone calls, guiding me through most tasks. Even once I had completed my placement hours I would still receive emails and updates on how the company was doing, which made me feel very supported.

What do you think you learnt working remotely, different to what you may have in the office?
I realised I had found commuting into London quite hard - it was definitely a shock to the system some mornings - so in that sense, working from home had a positive impact. In terms of learning, I tried my best to always figure things out for myself, as in the office I would be able to ask anyone a question, but at home they were an email or phone call away. So overall, I definitely became a more independent worker.

Would you encourage students to complete a remote placement?
Flexible working hours and working from home will very much be the future of working lives. Although there are some notable benefits attached to going into the city to work, learning how to work from home and all the experience you still receive with it is invaluable. Moreover, if you are successful in your remote placement, it is testament to your ability to self-motivate and being disciplined, which will only be a positive thing to add to your CV.

How has the placement helped you to take the next steps in your career?
I can happily say that I am now working full-time with Engaging Business after a successful placement period. It has massively helped me in my career, particularly during a time of such uncertainty.

The employer’s perspective:

Holly, why was hosting a placement student a positive experience?
It was great to be able to support Joe in finding out the type of role he'd like when he finished university. It was also a great opportunity to get a view from a university student about the work that we do.

How easy was it to continue the placement once you were no longer working in the office?
With the whole team working remotely, we just included Joe in all communications and made sure that he felt supported by checking in with him regularly. Luckily, he had been with us before the transition, so he knew the teams and the ways that we work.

What type of tools did you use to help maintain structure in the placement and engagement from the student?
Zoom and Google Meet for calls and also regular phone calls.

Do you have any tips or considerations to offer employers offering a remote placement for the first time?
Make sure you think of the placement student as if they were a full time a member of the team, include them in meetings, socials etc. so they really feel valued and part of the organisation.

For more information about providing a voluntary Work Placement to a student like Joe, email

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