The second part of my research into digital literacies for student employability has focussed on in-curricular placements here at Reading. Every undergraduate programme now has an embedded placement option.
The ‘Skirts’ model includes maxi, mini and micro placements. A maxi placement could be a year in industry as part of a four-year degree course. A mini placement is equivalent to a whole module, such as the compulsory Silchester Field School module that all first-year Archaeology students take. A micro placement forms a part of a module, for example the Real Jobs Scheme in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication.I have spoken to module convenors across the University who are responsible for placement modules, and placement tutors who supervise students whilst on placement. I have also spoken to a number of students who have participated in different types of in-curricular placements.
Back in July I visited Amanda Clarke, Field Director at the Silchester archaeological site just outside of Reading. I asked Amanda about the advantages of her students taking part in the six-week dig. Amanda explained that ‘I set up this module with employability in mind, because an excavation provides such a range of skills, not just technical skills that an archaeologist needs, but transferable skills, students are working together as a team and communicating with the same research goals in mind. I believe these skills are vital for our graduates going on into employment’.
I also explored how technology was being used on site. Students have access to Kindles that were set up to be able to access online artefact databases. Students would have previously recorded findings with pen and paper and then input the data on the database once back at the university. Now that the site has installed a wifi mast, students can instantly access the information they need. I thought this was an excellent example of how the use of technology was incorporated in WRPL.
I have also been looking at the Real Jobs scheme run in Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. This micro placement encourages students to gain experience in commissioned projects, working in a professional manner, dealing with real clients and learning about production constraints and procedures. Second-year student Sam Winslet, who photographs and designs Digitally Ready’s Digital Heroes series, has embraced the Real Jobs scheme, taking on projects for Berkshire Primary Care Trust and Paragon Community Housing. Sam’s fellow design student Richard Johnson says, ‘Real Jobs give us an opportunity to connect with employers and have to work to real deadlines. The experience helps us build our professional portfolio and build on the skills that we develop through our degree.’
In the coming weeks I am going to be talking to students that have completed a year in industry. I will also be asking employers to reflect on their experiences of having a student on placement within their organisation.