What it’s like to do a design work placement in Manchester
When you hear the words ‘work placement’, chances are you think of high school students being assigned two weeks of work experience at a parent’s friend’s partner’s office. But in reality, they’re actually an incredible stepping stone for those looking to ease themselves into full-time employment, particularly after years in education.
As a growing and thriving Manchester-based business, Ikon Furniture is keen to take on work placements who are at a variety of different stages in their life. Our latest hire was Kieran Clayton, a graphic designer with a degree in Furniture and Lifestyle Products who is currently working towards a Masters in Design Management.
But despite studying in Birmingham, Kieran chose to apply for a work placement in a different city; one that had a growing reputation for excelling in the area he wanted to work in.
“Studying in Birmingham for almost four years has been a great experience as I really enjoy the energy of life in the city. But Manchester definitely has more of a visible focus on growth in creativity, design and innovation. There are so many creative design businesses choosing to put down their roots here, which means more opportunities for people like me who are finishing university.
“I also think there’s a lot more energy towards design and, particularly in my area of interest, there are far more forward-thinking companies in Manchester who have a modern mindset and contemporary ideas, which is certainly where I see the industry going.”
Nowadays Manchester has found its strengths in manufacturing, research, advanced engineering, life sciences, energy, financial, environment and business services. But, given its historical reliance on the textile industry, it makes sense that this northern powerhouse has become a magnet for businesses of all shapes and sizes in the creative sector.
Work placements are a much-needed stepping stone in the world of work, especially now when competition for full-time positions is so high. Particularly in the capital and at major companies, applicants are often required to have a certain amount of experience in order to apply for IDs. And that’s where work placement comes in; it’s the missing link between a university education and employment.
And it appears that more graduates and young people alike are recognising the value of work placements outside London. A report in 2018 by Manchester city council showed a spike in apprenticeships and placements over the years, but what was most interesting was the huge jump in those over the age of 20 and 25 in particular.
Work placements aren’t just for high school students, and nor are they about fetching coffee, running errands or photocopying for hours on end.
“Working at Ikon for two weeks on a work placement gave me an amazing insight into a real furniture design industry,” said Kieran. “During my time there I learned and worked on a number of different skills, particularly all about the development process that the team goes through to come up with a bespoke furniture solution and a wider view of interior design as a whole. My placement also gave me a real-life and in-depth insight into key areas of the industry such as safety, research, materials, and CAD software.
“But it wasn’t just about the technical skills. I also spent a great deal of time learning about the commercial side of things such as how the business works behind the scenes, time planning, and finance.”
It’s clear that students benefit from work placements. Through his, Kieran has been able to learn new knowledge not just for his personal development, but that he’s also able to combine with the skills he’s gained at university to apply them to real-world projects. But what about the employers themselves? What do they get out of it?
- Access to higher skill levels – Graduates come with a high level of skills that they are just itching to put into practice. This often includes up-to-date industry knowledge and the ability to handle new software with ease.
- Additional resource – For both technical and everyday tasks, graduates are eager to learn any new skill that will set them up for entering the world of work.
- A fresh take – Different people see things from different angles. A young mind fresh from the lecture hall can offer a brand new take on problems that arise and can help come up with creative solutions.
- Route to future recruitment – Work placements carry less risk for employers than hiring someone full-time, but it also helps to identify the best talent that people might want to take on in the future. Graduates don’t require a great deal of training to make the transition, which means a smaller investment and a greater return.
So, with all that in mind, there’s only one more question to put to Kieran: where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
“After completing my Masters in August I want to work as a Furniture Designer. But if I have to look ahead by five years I’d say I can see myself working as a Design Manager for a furniture company.”