The need to acquire relevant work experience and employability skills before graduating from university has never been greater. With the current well-publicised fierce competition for graduate roles, completing a placement year or internship has become the key to successful graduate employment for many students. And increasing numbers of employers are turning to placement and internship schemes to attract the most talented students with a view to moving them into full-time graduate roles.
Given this recent rise in the significance of work experience and acquiring employment-related skills, the 2011 National Placement & Internship Awards, which took place on Thursday January. 20 at Cass Business School, could not have been better timed.
With over 200 attendees from the world of graduate recruitment and higher education, the Awards (run by the website RateMyPlacement.co.uk) are designed to recognise and reward the outstanding achievements of employers, universities and students involved in undergraduate placements and internships.
The day kicked off with an interactive and engaging session on the latest venture from the RateMyPlacement team, On-Campus Promotions (www.oncampuspromotions.co.uk ), a brand new, highly-targeted service that allows employers to engage with and communicate their recruitment messages to students. The session also included the results from an "Undergraduate Engagement" survey of over 1,000 first and second year students on their career aspirations, media habits and influences.
After a cracking buffet lunch, the keynote speaker took to the stage. Zain Latif - who is a Cass Business School alumni and ex-intern here, worked at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and HSBC and is now principal of his own investment firm, TLG Capital - gave an inspiring speech about his experiences at university and then in the corporate banking world. With some entertaining anecdotes along the way, Mr Latif shared his journey from being an intern working an "all-nighter" to setting up his own business - and certainly left the audience feeling inspired.
Following him, co-founder of RateMyPlacement.co.uk, Oliver Sidwell, announced the winners of the National Placement & Internship Awards 2011. With over 250 entries and nominations across the 14 award categories up for grabs, competition among the employers, universities and students involved was intense.
The University of Huddersfield and Brunel University picked up the headline University Awards for their dedication and for the quality of the service they provide to their students. Kimberley Low, a student from the University of Oxford, was crowned "Best Intern" for her vacation scheme placement at law firm Linklaters, while David Liptrot from the University of Bath took home the "Best Placement Student" award for his year spent at AstraZeneca.
Warwick Finance Societies and Bristol Social Enterprise Society were highly commended in the "Best University Society" category, but PsyCardiff picked up the award.
The event reached a climax with the announcement of the six "Employer" Awards. Law firm Nabarro were rewarded for the "Best Short-term Insight Scheme" with both PwC and Pinsent Masons highly commended. Barclays Capital took home the award for "Best Diversity within Work Experience" for the second year running for their outstanding commitment to the principle of inclusion within their undergraduate schemes. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement was named "Best New Provider of Work Experience" for the launch of its first official internship programme.
Finally, that left the unveiling of the "Best Placement & Internship Employer" title, assessed on the basis of reviews submitted by students on RateMyPlacement.co.uk. Accountancy firm Grant Thornton were the 2011 winners, taking over from Microsoft who were victorious in 2010. Grant Thornton offer both summer internships and placement years and, judging by the reviews submitted on RateMyPlacement, provide their students with both an outstanding experience and excellent graduate employment prospects.