5 reasons why more employers are running micro-placements

Jun 8, 2021 | Work experience/internships

Micro-placements have proven an effective option for employers who’ve had to rethink their work experience opportunities due to the pandemic, explains Wendy Browne, Senior Employer Engagement Adviser at City, University of London.

As many employers have unfortunately had to cut longer-term internships due to the pandemic, offering shorter bursts of work experience has proven a more viable alternative.

City, University of London has found that through its 15 credit-bearing Micro-Placements module, they’ve managed to place 700 students and support 240 businesses with short-term placements. Many of the organisations continue to work with the students to this day.

Micro-placements can be virtual projects or fit a hybrid model. Longer work placements add a huge amount of value, and running them in conjunction with shorter placements can act as a complement.

Here are five key reasons why employers are increasingly engaging in micro-placements for students.


1. Retention and loyalty

According to ISE’s latest Student Development Survey, 47% graduates leave the organisation after five years, with 20% leaving due to changing careers. With short-term placements students get to engage early with your organisation and your sector, equipping them with a much clearer idea of whether this is the direction they want to follow in the long term.

Particularly in the post pandemic world, students will remember the organisations that gave them that opportunity. When developing student hires costs on average £3,054, retaining this talent is exceptionally cost-effective.


2. Career management

Career management skills are cited in the ISE’s development report as crucial areas where graduates are lacking. Micro-placements encourage career exploration for students, where they take on opportunities not usually associated with their degree discipline. This allows students to proactively manage their own careers, exploring their options in an early, succinct way. This also allows employers to work with courses and skillsets they may not traditionally hire from in a low risk environment.

Graduates’ lack of self-awareness is also cited as a continued issue for employers. Providing these short term, early insights allows students to gauge where they are in terms of their skills and where they need to be.

The micro-placements assessment module allows students to reflect upon their placement and set career goals and an action plan off the back of it, realistically identifying areas for improvement and a plan to best propel their career forward. Last summer, students who completed their Micro-Placement were 19% more likely to say they felt informed about their future careers and have clear goals.


3. Skills development

The experience of juggling an inbox, choreographing meetings with colleagues and delivering presentations all come as second nature to us now, but can be very intimidating to students whom have never experienced such a world before. Giving students early exposure to professional life contextualises the soft skills learned in the class room – time management, prioritisation, verbal and written communication skills for example.

The latest ISE development report cites employers’ key concerns with graduates’ presentation, writing and problem solving skills. We have seen a direct correlation on our own programme, whereby employers’ requests for creative problem solving and communication skills have increased considerably during the pandemic.

In virtual working, communication skills are paramount to successfully collaborate and manage work-based relationships. Furthermore, taking initiative to solve problems in changing, high pressure circumstances becomes more critical than ever. Micro-placements’ learning outcomes include gaining professional level experience in a role directly relevant to these employability skills as well as the ability to articulate these skills effectively in job interviews, CVs and applications.


4. Levelling the playing field

Research by the British Academy states that, by GCSE age in pre pandemic times, poorer students are an average of 18 months behind their peers. In spring 2020, one survey found that 74% of private school children benefitted from full, virtual school days versus 38% of state school pupils.

These gaps directly correlate with a drop in labour outcomes. To compound these inequalities, many part time roles where students have previously gained work experience have disappeared due to badly hit retail and hospitality sectors. Therefore, it is imperative that universities and employers work together to ensure students from all backgrounds are given opportunities to build this experience and succeed. City’s micro-placements work predominantly with students from under-represented backgrounds to provide them with opportunities to develop these experiences and level the playing field.

At City, 61% of students we work with are first in their families to go into higher education. This often means students lack social capital, including the connections and opportunities, knowledge around certain employment processes and confidence. Providing a space for students to gain exposure to your organisation, make industry connections, and build confidence will offer you a unique and diverse talent pool. Last year, micro-placements students’ confidence and resilience increased across six markers pre and post placement.

Finally, students from under-represented backgrounds often have other commitments such as caring responsibilities or part time jobs. Shorter placements offer a way for students to manage their responsibilities whilst accessing work expereince.


5. Improved applications

Short-term placements can help improve applications by exposing students to a lighter touch version of the recruitment process. Micro-placement students stating, ‘I predict I will perform to a high standard during placement/graduate level recruitment and selection processes’ increased by 11% post placement.

Project-based work leads to tangible, actionable deliverables. City has been astounded at what has been achieved by our young students in the course of a few weeks – white papers, marketing plans, business strategies, HR processes, to name but a few – it is amazing how productive it can be to have one person focus solely on a piece of work for a fixed period of time.


Case study

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has placed 35 students since our partnership began, bringing fresh eyes to a competitive market, particularly in marketing and branding.

It was crucial that the students with the right attributes were selected as the projects represented crucial and very relevant needs for the company.

The project led to the company increasing its understanding of the competition and making changes that enhanced its external profile. The insights generated by the students still support many aspects of the business and have been used in sales pitches and the sales cycle. Students had a significant impact with their mentors grading this at 98%.

A second year micro-placement student who gained work experience with TCS said:

“I was placed in their strategic solutions and outsourcing unit that focused on large deals. Each week I was given a new project to undertake myself. The projects were based around; research, data analysis, and a client case study. At the end of each week I would present my findings using slide decks in a team meeting. My placement at TCS gave me the opportunity to develop and gain soft and technical skills. I can now use these examples in graduate scheme applications and interviews and show prospective employers the value I can add to a business as there is evidence I have done it before.”

To find out more join our virtual Diversity & Micro-Placements Roundtable, 9am-10.30am on Wednesday 11th August. RSVP now to book your spot.

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