By Jeff McCarthy, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Employability Lead, Manchester Metropolitan University

Jeff McCarthy

During the MPA Board meeting last week we discussed how student placements are under threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. MPA Board members had been openly talking about the impact of the pandemic on either their own organisations or the many partners they collaborate with. In work terms, this period is testing us beyond anything we have previously experienced in our careers. No surprise given how many organisations are putting staff on furlough or having to make redundancies. Others are busier than ever before while all of us are adapting to new working practices. All of which has real implications for talent development and recruitment. It also has an impact on the sustainability of the creative, digital, media, publishing sector members we, the MPA represent.

Yet at the same time, many employers are still going ahead with placements. For many, they are essential routes to developing and retaining appropriate talent. Arguably, with the unprecedented disruption to the economy and education, there has never been a more important time for students to gain the relevant experience if at all possible.

Placements are a key route through university education and play a major part in shaping both final year success and early career opportunities. For example, 89% of placement students graduate with a 1st or 2.1 (ManMet University Business School 2018 data). As a launch pad for full-time graduate employment, the entire career pathway trajectory of placement students is often greatly accelerated.

ManMet University offers over 1,000 placements every year with local, national and international employers. Many are MPA members and very often, those recruiting are alumni of ManMet who return to recruit work-ready students. Think McCann, TheEword, Apadmi…

Some of the adjustments employers are making include:

  • Start dates may be later than usual (possibly Aug/Sep 2020)
  • Recruitment process led by online selection (interviews via skype, zoom, jitsi, teams, slack…)
  • Equipping placement students to work from home

So placements are still going ahead. While the pandemic may affect numbers of opportunities available, it’s more important that MPA members, employers and Universities collaborate to offer placements for talent development. The long-term health of MPA members and their partners partly depends on it.


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