May 14, 2021, by abrierley
My placement at Aspley Foundation
by Pari Jevant (Sociology & Social Policy)
In the Autumn term of 2020 I began a placement with Aspley Partnership, an organisation that seeks to minimise poverty in the local Aspley area in Nottingham. I was employed as a student researcher, and my role broadly involved researching anti-poverty strategies and discovering ways to implement them into the Partnership’s centre of activities and their various schemes presented to them through an ‘anti-poverty strategy’ report. My team and I were given full responsibility of the aims and implications of the research paper, and we were the ones who coordinated future meetings, plans and presentations. I had never felt as trusted for coordination and liaising before, and this is when I realised how much Aspley Partnership appreciated our being there for them, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic which caused charities like theirs to face immense difficulty. This entire experience at Aspley Partnership was by far the most fulfilling placement that I have completed throughout my university career. I knew my work with the charity could not end here, and after the initial 10-week contract I became so invested in seeing the solutions I researched be actioned, I began the journey to creating Aspley Partnership Society (APS). This is a society I created that provides young people who attend Aspley Partnership gain ambition and greater educational and career aspirations.
The main aspect I enjoyed on my placement was that Aspley Partnership’s aims for minimising poverty were very much in line with my future career plans. My future career plans lie with bringing together my community through knowledge of how social inequality can produce divisions and alienation. Many are unfamiliar with their local community’s difficulties or obstacles if they happen to live in more urban, developed residences, therefore I believe educating people about these divisions is the first step to engaging the entire community. Since arriving in Nottingham, I had noticed a separation between the students and our local community, which was only exacerbated by the pandemic that caused so much estrangement. The staff at Aspley Partnership had voiced their concerns about Aspley residents acknowledging that a Russel group university exists in their local area, however the path to attending higher education in one of these universities seemed highly unattainable. Working so closely with the staff and being in a fortunate position myself -being able to attend higher education– I felt it my responsibility to take action to familiarise myself with the local area and its people, but more so to bridge the gap between the University of Nottingham and its students, and the Aspley ward and its residents. Therefore my aims, in conjunction with Aspley Partnership’s, helped action APS. This society gives young people at Aspley a chance to understand their potential, but also to build on their aspirations for the future whilst showing them viable routes and options for making it wherever they please.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, the direction of the report and presentation expected of us was worked on independently, and I was given a lot of responsibility towards the aims of the research as well as the scheduling of meetings. This benefitted me in providing me with the confidence to take on something that the local Aspley area could benefit from massively. Knowing how much trust Aspley Partnership had placed on me gave me the drive to find solutions that they could one day implement. Alongside the determination, this placement provided me with organisational skills, as without a strict timeline it can be difficult to deliver a 30,000 worded report on time alongside university work and extra-curriculars. However once again, this could not have been possible without the Aspley team being extremely nice and understanding of our other commitments.
The biggest challenges I experienced throughout this placement was coordinating with the team I was working on the report and presentation with. During the pandemic it seemed hard to get everyone’s timetables to match and it can become frustrating if questions need to be answered. However, this was overcome by setting in a weekly meeting in our timetables, so it functioned as a seminar in itself -almost becoming mandatory, but extremely helpful. Another challenge was working on the report alongside coursework as things can become overwhelming especially towards the Christmas period. I worked through this by organising my daily schedule, but also through being able to depend on my placements team as well as the understanding Aspley Partnership staff members.
Overall, I found the placement extremely enriching and could not recommend applying to placements more. The experience itself gave me the independence and confidence needed to begin a job in the real world, and the interview process provided me with interview etiquette alongside knowledge of the kind of questions one could expect as well as how to answer them in a formal interview. The main tips I can offer are future planning, as it can be important to know how busy your weeks ahead may be before committing to anything. Moreover, be outspoken about your workload as everyone will understand and most likely be in a similar position, therefore learn how to delegate responsibility as well. For interview specifically, I looked at generic questions employers may ask and tried to almost revise those by placing prior experiences I have in the kind of roles expected of me as an i.e. student researcher.