Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Placement Opportunities in Environmental Science
Originator Sarah Maguire
Department School of Environmental Studies, University of Ulster at Coleraine, Cromore Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, BT52 1SA
Tel. +44 (0) 28 70 324686
Fax. +44 (0) 28 70 324911

Within the School of Environmental Studies we offer two opportunities for students to acquire experience of work-based learning, a year-long intercalary placement and a short placement experience within a final year module. The aims of the placement experiences are to:

There are three stages involved in establishing a placement programme for students

Stage 1: Setting up the placement. This involves developing links with appropriate organisations identifying possible opportunities for placement and setting in place the procedures for managing the placement. Students must then be recruited and matched with the placement and prepared for going out into the work place.
Stage 2:

Contact with the student, this is variable depending on the length of the placement. For a one-year placement it might involve; preparation sessions, support in applying for placements, continuous access through telephone/ email, two visits to the placement site.

For the shorter placement this contact might be reduced to monitoring progress during the module's contact times.

Stage 3: Assessment of work-based learning, for the one-year placement this includes; an academic tutor's report, a work supervisor's report, a reflective log book, a written reflection of the placement and a report of a work-based project. The student's assessment does not contribute to their degree classification but if completed satisfactorily awards them a Diploma in Industrial Studies. For the module placement students are asked to produce a reflective statement and a work project report and their supervisor also writes a brief report, this carries 40% of the module's mark.

There are many positive outcomes for the student undertaking work placements including the development of skills, an increased maturity (students returning from placement do better on average than other students), the identification and clarification of career plans and experience of applying text-book learning to work situations. For staff useful links with employers are also strengthened.

However, there are a number of problematic issues which staff developing placements should be aware of. Running a placement programme is time-consuming particularly if you need to establish placements from scratch and /or visit students over a wide geographical area. If students have difficulties whilst on placement you may spend time trouble-shooting for them, this may be reduced if the appropriateness of the placement and the student and employer expectations are established at the outset. If students require payment whilst on placement e.g. a salary for one-year students, it may be difficult to find a large number of environmental placements.

We have found that students undertaking a one-year placement gain an in-depth experience of a work environment and that their employers invest time training and developing the students. In contrast students undertaking short placements may not be trained but still gain a valuable 'snapshot' experience.


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