This year, 15 University of Sunderland students embarked on a six week placement as part of the second phase of Project Change Maker. The project is a unique opportunity offered by the University that consists of two phases; the first phase requires participants to attend a series of guest lectures across five days and reflect on their findings, the second phase sees students applying for and securing placements with a local business. The project also provides a cash award of £150, funded by the University’s own Silver Fund.
For the first phase current students engaged in a selection of high-profile guest lectures delivered by University of Sunderland alumni. The alumni gave their insights and experiences from across the world, offering advice on a variety of career paths. Attendees were then encouraged to write up their findings, picking out the key takeaways from the lectures. Taking part in phase two of the project was optional, it gave students the opportunity to apply for a part-time virtual placement with a local organisation.
To apply for phase two of the project, students had to submit a short 60 second sales pitch covering why they should be chosen for the project and what they had gained from the experience so far. The pitch was then reviewed by a panel of experts, including academics and employers. 15 successful candidates were then placed with their virtual placements and introduced to a challenge facing that organisation.
Tackling an organisational challenge
The diverse nature of the organisations and the challenges they face meant that participants could examine a selection of issues including recruitment, diversity and business growth. Students began to research the challenge, and at the end of the six weeks, demonstrated their suggestions based on the knowledge they gained from their studies and how they have evolved throughout the placement.
Project Change Maker has provided an excellent opportunity for our students to gain practical experience and a good insight into important issues facing modern businesses. Students were welcomed into organisations and given the chance to research and develop their understanding of a particular commercial problem, at the end of the placement they have gained invaluable experience.
“The positive feedback received from employers reflects that despite the challenges of the global pandemic, our students can still deliver.”
Dr Derek Watson, Project Change Maker Lead
Reflecting on the experience, Business and Marketing Management student Amy Jennings said “When I found out that I was accepted for Project Change Maker I was very excited. I understood that this was perhaps one of the best opportunities as a student that I have had so far”. Amy also said that the project helped improve her communication skills – “As a result of the Project Change Maker experience I am now more confident when speaking to real-life employers. I was able to make effective contributions to the organisation and as a result I was able to improve my problem-solving, communication and time-management skills”.
Due to the success of the project it has been extended and developed so that students have the opportunity to work another 50 hours on placement, to fit around their studies, and receive an additional cash prize thanks to the support of Santander. In the future the project will be titled Santander Change Maker Project and will remain as a permanent employability opportunity for students.
Published: 25 August 2021