Catherine Burgess has left the building!
Those 48 weeks came and went all too quickly and we’ll miss her, she added a great ‘take on our business’ from a young persons viewpoint. We don’t think we’ve met anyone that could eat their way through a workload as fast, as efficiently always achieving an excellent result, as Catherine does. She will be an asset to any future employer, unless that is, she decides to start her own company. We’ve no doubt she would be successful.
Well, as I say Catherine is now headed back to her final year of study at Huddersfield Uni’s School of Design. But in logging into the ‘backroom of our blog’ I see she even had time to leave us her thoughts about the past 48 weeks and having read them I think they’re worth sharing with you………………….
“At the end of my placement year at Scarlet Opus, during the third year of studying Surface Design for Fashion and Interiors at the University of Huddersfield, I’m writing to evaluate the benefits of taking a year out of university to undertake work experience – a ‘sandwich year’ and to leave a surprise blog for Victoria & Phil!
Huddersfield University’s option of taking a placement year always appealed to me– when I started the course I wasn’t sure if I’d definitely take it, but as I got further into my studies, I began to realise that university alone wouldn’t realistically prepare me for the world of work; it would simply develop my academic and creative potential.
Image from http://blogs.spectator.co.uk
In my experience at university, you develop your skills in your chosen practise, e.g. printed textiles, through advice and feedback based on your academic or design work, but you’re not given much guidance (if any) as to how to put these skills into practise in a real-life, working situation. It is all quite ‘conceptual’. I wanted to take on a work placement to discover first-hand how my skills could be put to use, and develop these to make sure I was industry-ready.
A strong work-ethic is extremely important in getting to where you want to be. You do need to be hard-working and have willing in order to embark on a potential future career in such a competitive industry. I’ve always had part-time jobs around my studies, although not relevant experience, I feel that this is definitely an advantage in preparing for the year.
A benefit of my course is the range of sponsored design briefs we’re set as part of our design modules. Designing for a company helps you to think more commercially and professionally, whilst still having to add your personal touch in order for your work to stand out. Having to design for a specific market, maybe for a certain season, with tight design specifications and to set deadlines is hugely beneficial, and should be set more often and be available to more courses. However, I’ve always felt that during these assignments, we’re treated as students, rather than ‘future designers’.
A big benefit of taking a placement year, I’ve found, is that your eyes are opened to the whole range of career paths that exist within the industry. I’ve always been open to trying new things, I didn’t want to restrict myself to the single option of being ‘A Designer’ – University might prepare me for being a great Surface Designer, but what else? I wanted to know what else was available to me, and I feel that all students should do.
Image from noaa.org
Trend Forecasting is a topic that I experienced at the start of my degree, and has been of interest to me ever since – the opportunity to complete a placement in this field was therefore extremely appealing to me as I felt that there was a great potential to learn so much more about a subject I was interested in.
I had originally considered the idea of taking on numerous short-term placements within the year so as to gain as many different experiences as possible, however, on reflection I have discovered that you need a decent amount of time at a single company in order to really make the most of it, and actually develop your skills and fulfil your potential whilst there. I’ve had a wide range of opportunities at Scarlet Opus that I would not have had if I’d been continuously stopping and starting at different places for a couple of weeks at a time. I now feel that a placement shouldn’t be viewed as ‘just be something to add to your CV’ and you shouldn’t simply accept the first thing you’ve been offered without evaluating whether it’s right for you.
Image from standard.co.uk
It is increasingly disappointing to hear about companies that hire placement students simply to do the jobs that ‘they’ don’t want to do, and end up not treating the student as a valuable member of the team. I feel that university staff should have a duty to assess this, they should be more involved in individual sandwich year cases to make sure that all students are continuing to benefit from taking the decision to undergo a placement.
It’s fair to say, however, that if you have industry references and a placement year of experience compared to no experience of working in your relevant industry, you are definitely more employable and more likely to be considered for a position in such a hugely competitive jobs market. A placement year gives a better understanding of what’s expected of you when you graduate (even the little things like making the most of 9-5 hours compared to long uni lie-ins!) and develops a whole range of skills including personal confidence and initiative, time management, organisation and efficiency as well as technical and practical skills in your chosen practice (e.g. using software at a more advanced level).
A placement year will give you the opportunity to speak to, and gain invaluable feedback and advice from people at different levels within the workplace and make contacts whilst improving interpersonal and communication skills. Even the process of applying for placements and internships was valuable – I feel more confident after creating a successful CV, completing application forms, writing covering letters and attending interviews that I’ll be ready to apply for jobs as a graduate.
Importantly & unexpectedly, a year away from University made me evaluate my first and second years; to really think about final year design projects and my dissertation. I feel that I will go into my final year with a greater understanding and focus on what I want to do, whilst having the experience to pull it off. Although a placement is a year completely away from university, your degree still needs to be on your mind – I’ve been thinking about my dissertation based on things I’ve learnt this year, whilst taking time to design, draw and make in my spare time as it was something I used to do on a daily basis.
Generally, students that have completed a placement year, achieve more highly in their final year – I think that this is due to an awareness of the opportunities that are available after university and expectations of graduates. Therefore, there’s an increased motivation to grab said opportunities. I’ll also be able to directly apply skills I’ve learnt during my time at Scarlet Opus to my final year studies – from my knowledge of the trend forecasting process, to my improved eye for colour and composition.
I look back at pieces of my university work so far, and can’t help but be critical based on things that I’ve learnt at Scarlet Opus in the world of Trend Forecasting – I’m enthusiastic about taking on my final year with a fresh, new, more professional and industry-ready approach. I would definitely recommend taking the opportunity of a sandwich year to students .
Be willing to put in the effort, try new things, and make the most of the year that will ultimately prepare you for life after university.”
And we would definitely recommend that small business take the opportunity to host a placement year under-grad; it will we assure you be a mutually beneficial year as long as you let them work and contribute as you do any other team member.
We’d love to hear what your experience in this area is, or what you think of Catherine’s review – so please feel free to comment.