Student Placement Program
At HEL’s, nurturing and growing the next generation of leaders is one of the essential pillars of our company. So to round off our series of ‘People Behind The…’ blogs, we look at the people behind the future, by looking at our student placement programme and how it benefits both our students and our company.
As with our Angels, we begin with a vigorous recruitment programme designed to spot our potential shining stars. We asked our head of Talent, Frances, to take us through some of the key stages:
“They don’t need to be industry experts, but they need to want to learn. Being passionate about our agency and the industry is a real advantage plus initiative, common sense and a willingness to get stuck in! We look for similar qualities as we do our Angels.
HA: Have you noticed a change in the calibre of candidates coming through over the years?
Frances: “Every year we are impressed with the calibre of candidates, it feels like their extra-curricular activities become more and more admirable. Many take extra courses and sign up to Uni groups in order to boost their CV. We also noticed how many spend their spare time in the gym, rather than the pub!”
HA: Can you give a brief description of the process the candidates need to go through?
Frances: “We advertise on the University job boards and our website. We have an initial online application process and if we like their responses and CV, we invite them to round 1 of interviews. We present a little about HEL’s, what our placement involves and a chance to ask questions, as well as meet the current student placements. We then do 1-to-1 interviews, finding out a bit more about them and their experience. We invite 4-6 students back for round 2 and they are asked to complete a presentation task, designed to test both their creative and logistical skills. We ask them to let us know their plan if they are successful, where they will live, how they will subsidise living in London. And from here we decide our final 2, although this year we are taking 3 students!
HA: What are you looking for in the perfect candidate?
Frances:“They need to be a good culture fit. Someone who can bring something different to the team as well, so that we are not always employing the same type of personality. They don’t need to be industry experts, but they need to want to learn, and being passionate about our agency and the industry is a real advantage. Initiative, common sense and a willingness to get stuck in! We look for similar qualities as we do our Angels.
HA: How do you think the student placement program benefits those taking part?
Frances: “Our placements receive invaluable experience from their year with us. They are given a great head start, compared to a student who does not take a placement year. Not only do they learn about processes and systems but day to day office skills, timekeeping, phone and presentation skills. The level of confidence we see in our placements at the end of the year compared to when they started is a world apart as they are encouraged to grow and progress and given the support to do so.”
HA: What is unique about the HEL’s student placement program?
Frances: I believe the importance of the placement role here at HEL’s is far greater than other companies. They are not an extra member of staff who we expect to make tea and do admin for us, they are integral to the company. The opportunity to receive in-depth and continued training throughout the year, shows how valued they are. They are required to work in the field and this adds to the variety of the role, as well as helping to gain confidence and experience within the industry.”
So that’s how we find our placements for our student placement program, but what does it feel like being a placement and how does it set them up for the future?
We quiz our current students Millie and Emma on their experience this year:
“Every single member of the office wants you to get the most out of your placement, and they work closely with you to meet any personal targets you want to reach during your placement year.”
HA: What are the main benefits of being part of the student placement program?
Millie: “Gaining vital industry knowledge and trends, as well as being able to network and make contacts within the events industry. Being able to get out on-site and be involved in all aspects of an event is also fantastic, as you get to see how the event started to the final outcome.”
HA: What is the main thing you have learnt this year?
Emma: “One of the key learnings that I have taken from this year is that a lot more people are involved in campaigns that meets the eye. At uni we are taught that in- house marketing teams or agencies put together campaigns and it is almost assumed from students that it is kept within those departments/agencies. This year has definitely taught me there are many more agencies that collaborate together to pull together campaigns.
HA: Are there any new skills you have gained?
Millie: “I’ve learnt office skills, email & phone manner. Balancing workload/ time management, this includes working on multiple brands at a time and matching skill sets to each brand.”
HA: What is your highlight of the student placement program?
Millie: “It would be the SSE Energisers. It’s a project that has shaped my placement and helped me build a relationship with the Angels, I’ve been involved in making critical changes to the way we crew and divide out the shifts, come up with ways to motivate the team, selecting new Energisers to invite to training, all to the benefit of the Energisers, our client and the SSE Arena guests.”
Emma: “The highlight of my time with the student placement program at HEL’s has been working on the Kraken campaigns. Being able to get involved in the campaigns right from the start and then assisting with the full running of them has been a really good experience. I’ve learnt huge amounts about logistics and project planning to ensure everything runs smoothly and on time.”
HA: What advise will you pass on to the next student placements
Millie: “Step out of your comfort zone!! Get involved in everything you possibly can, speak to clients, work on-site, take part in the training.”
Emma: “If you want to do it, ask! HEL’s is a really supportive company and they will help with training and getting you involved in everything you want. Don’t assume everything will come to you, make those opportunities happen.”
HA: How do you think the student placement program will benefit your final year and your entry into work?
Emma: “My project management and time management skills have improved massively, which will help with my essay and dissertation planning. For entry into work, I feel like I will have a huge advantage over graduates who have not completed a placement year. My office and communication skills are so much stronger now than if I hadn’t taken this year and I think that will be a huge advantage when applying for jobs.”
HA: What do you think is unique about being on the HEL’s student placement program?
Millie: “How much trust everyone in the office puts into you and the encouragement they give you. Every single member of the office wants you to get the most out of your placement, and they work closely with you to meet any personal targets you want to reach during your placement year.”
But how does the student placement program set you up for entry into the industry? Our senior account exec Rebs, who completed the student placement and then returned to HEL’s after university gives us some insight:
“You will get out of it what you put in, and can be open with the team about what you would like to learn and what skills you want to develop”
HA: What were the main things you learnt whilst being on your placement?
Rebs: “The biggest thing that assisted me in finishing my degree was the industry knowledge developed through working on events, going to live events and having access to industry publications. Also, everybody in HA HQ has different skills and expertise, so working with everyone across different projects was a great way to learn.”
HA: How do you think the skills learnt benefited your entry into the industry?
Rebs: “It gives you more confidence. I was able to talk confidently on site or at industry events, and had the right knowledge to problem solve or plan ahead.”
HA: How did it feel coming back to HEL’s as an employee after the student placement program?
Rebs: “It was nice to be back with the team, and gave me confidence in my experience and the work I do. Having my degree out the way meant I could focus more on development and take on new challenges and responsibilities within HA.”
HA: What advice would you give to the new student placements starting in the summer?
Rebs: “To make the most of your resources, and ask lots of questions. You will get out of it what you put in, and can be open with the team about what you would like to learn and what skills you want to develop. It’s also really beneficial to get out in the field as much as possible to see how events run on-site and work with the Angels.”
HA: What do you think is unique about the way HEL’s nurtures the next generation of talent?
Rebs: “You are not just here to make tea & coffee if you are on placement, but are given the opportunity to learn and really get involved. You are thrown in to the deep end but in a positive way – and are trained and fully supported through the year.”And for us at HEL’s the benefits to the company are clear. Our Founder Helen sums it up:”Our student placements are integral to the company. they provide a fresh voice and new thinking and to see how they blossom from confident but inexperienced students to the potential future of the industry, is a joy to watch. We are so proud of what they achieve and that we set them on the start of their career path.”