Birmingham Conservation Trust and the University of Birmingham

Natasha Kerven, 16.07.2015
Student placements must be well-defined and supported by staff
In March, Julian Warren and Sam Wheeler completed placements at Birmingham Conservation Trust’s Coffin Works. The unpaid placements form the core of the professional skills module offered to second-year undergraduate students in the University of Birmingham's School of History and Cultures, supported by the university's careers service.  
We collaborate with local heritage organisations that would benefit from having students assist them one day a week during the autumn and spring terms.

The host organisation gains an extra pair of hands and a fresh perspective, while the student develops valuable work based skills and experience and an understanding of how their degree can translate into graduate employment.

Before starting their placement, students are briefed by the university, ensuring that they understand their responsibilities and how to make the most of the experience. They are encouraged to maintain a reflective log, helping them to review and articulate their personal development while on placement, a key part of academic assessment.

Suzanne Carter, the development officer for Birmingham Conservation Trust, found that the students “were a huge support during the museum's first few months of operation. They were hands-on doing front of house, room enabling, kids’ activities and leaflet distribution, and also worked more strategically contributing to our marketing plan; which was an area they identified they would like to gain experience in. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them.”

Our advice for successful placements includes:

  • Well-defined and achievable projects for students to work on that will make a tangible impact to the host.
  • Staffing capacity for supervision and review.
  • Regular contact and support from the university for students and the host.
Natasha Kerven is the placements officer (College of Arts and Law) at the University of Birmingham’s Careers Network. Email her for more information on professional experience placements