The case for paid placements as transformational for students has been made; indeed the Wilson report (A Review of Business- University Collaboration, http://www.gov.uk) exhorts all universities to consider offering placements on their degrees, in recognition that placements can lead to a rich variety of business-university collaborations. But if universities develop placement models, what is the best way to engage with new employers? From the employer perspective, many prefer to work closely with a single institution where, over time, an understanding of the courses, structures and skills cements the partnership. This model has served us well in the past but businesses are changing and business needs now ebb and flow less predictably; over 200,000 new businesses have been created since 2011; employment contracts are more flexible; and small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) now account for 59% of private sector employment (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2012). To build new partnerships and expand placement provision, new approaches are necessary. Since the establishment of the e-Placement Scotland project in 2010, we have been working across Scotland to transform the placement landscape for the computing and IT sector. Our paper considers newly developed partnerships with employers to present our experiences to date. Through working with hundreds of employers across Scotland we have built up a rich picture of how universities, employers and students can work in partnership to achieve meaningful placement experiences; meaningful both for employers and students. We will explore the benefits of a sector-wide approach to employer outreach and explain how we access micro, small, medium and global enterprises, ensuring maximisation of opportunities for students while recognising the needs of each business in interacting with the project and subsequently with their placement students. The project is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and is itself a partnership between Edinburgh Napier University, ScotlandIS (the trade body for the IT sector in Scotland) and e-skills UK (the Sector Skills Council body for IT). Each project partner brings a different perspective to the challenge of creating paid placement opportunities for students and the links between the organisations has brought both new ways of approaching project challenges and a creativity of approach. We will also reflect on the impact of working across a region with multiple universities as partners.
Smith, S., & Smith, C. F. (2013, July). Building Employer Partnerships: a regional placement perspective. Paper presented at HEA Annual Conference