March 14, 2018, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
Getting the competitive edge: how a postgraduate placement could enhance your business
Office Innovations is a dynamic office interior and furniture business based in Chilwell, Nottingham. Over the past 6 months the company has identified two postgraduate placement projects to help move their business forward and identify new opportunities for business growth. Michelle Severn, Tom Geary and Samantha Betts spoke to Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN) about their experience.
Hosting two University of Nottingham postgraduate placements students, through the PPN scheme, has been game-changing for us. The insights and extra resource the students brought to the company mean that we now have a much better idea of how we benchmark against our competitors, and we’ve gained a firm evidence-base to support our vision for future growth. Getting that fresh, objective outside view on the business has been invaluable.
The experience of working with PPN was really positive from start to finish. At the point of interview we were surprised and impressed by the depth of knowledge the students had and the specific ideas they came up with. This actually made us re-think the shape of the placement and we ended up splitting the project in two, so that each student could really concentrate on their area of interest and specialism. It also meant that our placement students worked more strategically as a team and were able to complement each other better.
Our experience of working with the postgraduates more than matched the high expectations we had following the interviews. Both students were thorough in their approach and highly professional. They even worked really hard over Christmas and the research they delivered was impressive. It has helped us underpin our thinking and backed up many of our original business intuitions and assumptions. Due to the professionalism of the students we were comfortable for them to meet with the company directors and present their own ideas to them. They both did this confidently and even asked the directors for more clarity – something that we should do more too!
To work with the postgraduate placement students effectively it was important for us to be flexible so that they could concentrate on their academic work alongside the placement. In return for this flexibility we found that the students were reliable and communicated well; they told us what they would do, when they would do it and then did it! Respecting the needs of the students also meant that a warm working relationship developed, and as such they really embraced our business culture. One student even got into our ‘Fish & Chip Fridays’, and still emails us now she is back home in China. We were delighted to hear that she’s recently secured a job.
“We think that PPN placement students have been great ambassadors for the University of Nottingham.”
If you are a business who is thinking of working with PPN we would certainly recommend it. On a practical level the key point to be aware of is the time constraint. A 200 hours contract could easily slip away unless the placement project is focused and has clearly defined outcomes. For example, one of our projects was about marketing but that was too vast an area so we narrowed it down to look at a specific target audience. A project plan will help keep things on track and make overall management of the placement much easier.
As you can tell, we feel the PPN scheme has made a real difference to our business. The project recommendations are being implemented and we’re getting through them month by month. Think of PPN placement students as consultants who bring their impressive national and international expertise to your business; consultants who you couldn’t normally access any other way. They might be what gives your company a unique competitive edge! We certainly found that to be the case.
If you are a business interested in offering a postgraduate placement please visit our webpage for more information.