From Fairtrade to conservation – students gain experience and support the region’s organisations

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Almost 500 University of Chester students have taken on roles from Fairtrade Ambassadors to Conservation Assistants as they have gained work experience and supported organisations including businesses, charities, schools and tourist attractions.

Work Based Learning (WBL) placements have been successfully completed by students this term in organisations across Chester, the North West, North Wales, and the wider UK.

After the challenges for such initiatives in recent years due to COVID-19, the team at the University’s Centre for Professional and Economic Development is thrilled that its WBL placements have been enjoyed by more than 450 students.

They have been welcomed by placement providers from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and NANNA Rescue Animal Shelter to CTC Psychological Services, Coleg Cambria and Lyme National Trust.

The flagship Enhancing Your Employability through WBL module has been running successfully in various forms for more than 25 years at the University. At its core is the five-week placement that is undertaken during the second year of study.

Many can lead to employment, with Encirc, the most sustainable glass container producer of its kind in the world, providing four Chester Business School students with full-time paid positions this summer after they impressed on their placements.

Alistair Booth, WBL Team Leader, said: “Work Based Learning is a unique opportunity for students to develop their employability skills within the workplace, whilst giving employers an opportunity to influence the workforce of the future and gain help, support and input. Students can be given a specific project, offer fresh ideas and bring a new perspective.

“The second-year undergraduates have taken on a wide range of roles for their five-week placements, brought their specific subject knowledge from diverse disciplines across the University and applied this in real-world settings, supporting organisations in new and existing activities.”

Lois Body, who is studying Geography and Natural Hazard Management and spent time at Community Windpower Ltd for her placement, said: “My WBL placement has helped me decide what I would like to do with my career after I finish university. I have had the opportunity to develop skills I learned through my two years at the University of Chester and gain insights into working life.”

Annabel Priest, a Law student, described her WBL experience with HM Legal: “Going into placement, I had no idea what area of law I wanted to work in. With HM Legal being so open to accepting WBL students, I was exposed to areas of law that I had never considered.

“I found that I enjoyed every aspect of my placement and ended up being offered a role as a Legal Assistant within the Corporate and Commercial team over summer, before I joined my third year of studies. I am incredibly grateful for the team pushing me and showing me that I am more capable than I had realised I am.”

Esraa Elgammal, a Marine Biology student who gained experience at Record LRC, the Biological Records Centre serving Cheshire, Halton, Warrington and the Wirral, gave a strong recommendation for others to take up the opportunity: “It’s a lot of experience that will definitely benefit you in the future and give you a great boost of confidence for any future endeavours.”

Janette Williams, Planning and Performance Manager at Vision Support, a charity supporting vision impaired people and raising awareness of their needs, said: “(Hosting placements) has always been a positive experience for Vision Support and having students with new ideas and up-to-date theories and practices really benefits the organisation.”

Michelle Lewis, Visitor Operations Manager at Chester Zoo added: “It’s great being connected with the local University and helping an undergraduate see how a large visitor attraction runs.”

For more about WBL placements and how to offer a student an opportunity for 2023, visit: https://www.chester.ac.uk/wbl or email wbl@chester.ac.uk.

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