South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Blog: Top tips for taking your first steps into student placements

The heritage community has always had a positive attitude towards hosting students as volunteers, recognising (and often remembering first-hand) that it’s hard to get that first foothold in the sector without some relevant work experience. Students can also bring unique and valuable insights for organisations, helping them to reach new audiences and bring different ideas to on-going projects. However, it can be difficult for organisations to ‘frame’ opportunities and reach interested students to involve them.

In this blog post, Francesca Crickmere, Work Placement Coordinator at the University of Exeter, shares three tips for “trying out” placements and internships, to see if this is an activity you could take advantage of to increase your workforce and resource new projects:

1. Try a short experience

Placements don’t necessarily mean committing to a traditional year-long “sandwich” position between a student’s second and final year. Many of the University of Exeter placement options are short opportunities ranging from one week to three weeks in length, they can take place in one full-time block during the holidays or part-time over a term. This reduces the commitment from a placement host and works really well when a defined project or event needs delivering at that time. Short-term activities such as Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage, our Work Shadowing Scheme and our Career Mentor Scheme provide organisations with the opportunity to gain valuable insights, contribute to students’ development and raise awareness of your organisation.

2. Rethink your budget

For many organisations, it’s concern over budget which discourages them from looking into offering placements, however even if you have no available budget, there are still opportunities. With the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage scheme, students’ wages are fully covered by the University of Exeter, alternatively the Access to Internships scheme helps to support employers to offset the cost of hiring a student. Opportunities can also be offered on a voluntary basis, taking on student volunteers can be a great way of allowing them to gain valuable experience.

3. Offer remote working opportunities

Many students don’t have their own transport and rely on public services to reach placements, this cuts off some organisations from being able to offer placement opportunities. The added costs of travel expenses can also put students off, especially on an unpaid placement. Additionally, many teams might not have time in the day to support a placement student or perhaps there’s no desk space or a spare computer. Offering projects where a student can be based at home or university and working remotely on a piece of research or content for you can help to offset these challenges, working well for both parties. Students will gain useful skills in working remotely for example using Skype or Facetime to conduct meetings as well as skills such as delivering on project briefs or working to deadlines. We’d note that it’s helpful to have some element of face-to-face contact in any placement; a short, week-long placement may benefit from a day in the office at the start and a debrief meeting at the end of the week for example.

4. Ask for help

Most universities will have dedicated teams to support with placements, whether it’s helping you frame your initial idea, checking your job vacancy or booking a room on campus for you to conduct interviews. At the University of Exeter, we can help with any queries or questions you may have from what to offer and how you can offer it to what makes an effective placement.

If you’re interested in discussing placements or any other type of employability activity please get in touch with Francesca Crickmere at At the moment we’re particularly keen to find projects and vacancies for our 1st year history students who are looking for 40 hour placements over Easter as well as possible internships for Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage across the South West.

Francesca Crickmere is Work Placement Coordinator at the University of Exeter, and is responsible for supporting students through timetabled sessions and one to one meetings to find quality placements and internships. Based at the Cornwall campus in Penryn (near Falmouth) Francesca directly supports the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy course as well as the Undergraduate History and English students for their year in industry. She leads on the Pathways to Art, Culture and Heritage programme for Cornwall and acts as employer liaison for businesses and organisations keen to work with students from any discipline.

Twitter: @UoECornwallCZ / @UoECareers