The work placement is a key element of the student’s learning experience. Experiential learning is recognised as one of the most successful ways of embedding knowledge, skills and values. Alongside a body of theoretical knowledge and professional skill-sets, each student brings to the placement setting their own personal attributes. Some of the main skills students develop during a work placement or teaching practice experience include:
Basic Work Skills: For many students, Work Placement is the first experience of professional work experience and, as such, developing good work habits should be a standard outcome of the placement. At the very minimum, employers will expect one to behave in a professional manner, comply with company regulations and conditions of employment, carry out placement duties and behave in a manner appropriate to the work environment.
Communication Skills: The ability to communicate with colleagues, clients and the community in general is a skill regarded as essential by most employers. Communication skills cover business correspondence, report writing, presentation, face-to-face or telephone communication and non-verbal communication. When completing initial and follow-up assessments, try to pinpoint specific examples of communications skills.
Problem Solving Skills: Problem solving involves developing an objective approach to isolating the causes of problems, showing a realistic understanding of the key issues and reaching reasoned decisions that solve the problem. During placement a student may be given the opportunity to contribute to or to observe the organisation’s approach to problem resolution. As many graduate employers ask very specifically for this skill, look for ways of developing problem solving skills by for example, gathering data to support the decision-making process for a defined problem; being able to identify the key issues surrounding the problem; being objective even though you may feel emotional about a particular work issue or situation; setting out logical arguments and presenting clear recommendations.
Interpersonal and Teamwork Skills: Your ability to work productively alongside others will be central to the success of your Work Placement. Increasing numbers of graduate jobs will include a managerial function with responsibility for managing other people whether colleagues, customers or clients. Your ability to operate effectively as part of a team should be a core learning outcome of your placement.
Cultural/ International Awareness: In a world of global business and an increasingly multicultural environment, global or international awareness is coming to be recognised as a core graduate skill. Whether you are doing your Work Placement in Ireland or internationally, you should use the opportunity to develop an appreciation of other cultures.
Organisational Awareness: It is important that you take the time to understand the organisation you are working in, to show that you are genuinely interested in it, to respect the expected standards of professional behaviour and to receive a positive evaluation at the end of your placement.
IT and Professional Skills: Regardless of where your Work Placement takes place, you will almost certainly have exposure to technology. This can range from using standard software packages to working with sophisticated workplace automation systems. Use your placement to apply your existing skills and to develop new ones.