PageGroup telethon is good (work) experience

Consultants at international recruiter PageGroup have helped a charity secure 70 work placements for less advantaged students from Tower Hamlets in a single afternoon telethon.

Thu, 25 August 2016 | By Graham Simons

FROM SEPTEMBER'S RECRUITER MAGAZINE

Consultants at international recruiter PageGroup have helped a charity secure 70 work placements for less advantaged students from Tower Hamlets in a single afternoon telethon. 

Education charity Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership (THEBP) challenged PageGroup consultants to hold a telethon to secure some of the 1,000 work-experience placements it is seeking for Tower Hamlets students aged 14 to 18. 

The charity promotes work experience among students to give them greater confidence and insight into the world of business. The ultimate aim is to help them forge careers at large firms located in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

PageGroup consultants, with the help of Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs, managed to secure 70 of the 1,000 placements target. The charity had already managed to secure 300 placements before the 21 July telethon.

Expanding on the importance of the work placement scheme, Helen Sanson, THEBP director, explains that work placements at big City employers are hard to come by for students from less advantaged backgrounds. This is due to the fact that often, opportunities are reserved for friends and family of staff.

Sanson explained that considering the levels of child poverty and inter-generational worklessness in Tower Hamlets, the team wondered how they would ever improve “social mobility unless we get big companies like this to start saying ‘ok, we’ll take students on work experience, we’ll open their eyes, we’ll show them a different path. We’ll raise their aspirations to give them an opportunity’.”

Consequently, the charity set itself a target last year of 750 placements coming from big businesses and corporates, a target that Sanson says was “smashed”. So this year the charity upped the stakes to 1,000.

To make sure students and schools get the most of the placements, the charity consults with schools to confirm students are genuinely committed to the experience, Sanson says.

“We rely on the schools to support us with that. When we have really, really prestigious placements, we say to the schools ‘You must get students that are really committed and really want to work in this sector’.

“It’s so important that the students do turn up, do a good job. Otherwise our programme loses some of its momentum. We would lose our reputation. The company would become disappointed and think ‘Oh, I’m not doing that again’.”

Sanson adds that generally the programme works well, and experiences a lot of repeat business with firms. “Once we’ve made a link with the company, they usually take more students next time and keep going.”

Ahead of the telethon, Megan Hunter, the charity’s senior manager and HR manager, briefed PageGroup consultants on typical daily activities students could carry out. She explained these could include data inputting, taking minutes, franking, mail distribution, designing signs, notices, preparing meeting rooms, photocopying, filing and scanning.

Hunter also described how recruiters could “up sell” offers of placements from blue-chip clients in the City.

She urged consultants to consider how clients could double the placements they offer, so if a company offers placements to a sixth-form college, they should be asked if they could offer similar placements to an under-16 group. Similarly, if a company offers placements to a girls’ school, clients should be asked if they could make a similar offer to a boys’ school.

“Really what we want them to do is build up the basic skills, at least typical office admin skills, and that becomes the launch pad for a more senior job in an office,” Hunter said. 

“Getting hold of those basic skills is essential to our students; they would not get them at school and they would not get them at home.”

The opportunity to manage people on work placements is also a great selling point for clients, Hunter says, as this can prove a useful management tool for more junior staff.

“We always try and sell this scheme to employers as a chance for junior staff at that organisation to practise their own management skills because, by supervising or managing work-experience students and proving you can do that, maybe you could become a manager yourself.”

But it was PageGroup’s close relationships between its consultants and clients that paid dividends in securing so many placements in such a short space of time, says Simon Lindrea, regional director, banking & financial services at Michael Page.

Lindrea explained the agency selected which consultants would take part based on how close they were to their client base. Clients were very receptive to calls on the day, even among the “larger companies who we thought would already claim to be running their own similar schemes. It was an easy call”.

And it appears PageGroup consultants enjoyed the day, Lindrea added. He also hinted that the 70 placements may just be the start. He said: “It was something different for the team for a couple of hours. They threw themselves into it and there was a real buzz throughout the office. We really enjoyed working with THEBP and it was a great excuse to call our clients.”

He added that although the team managed to confirm 70 placements within the allocated 90 minutes, many calls were still being returned, and that number could rise. “We expect more to come in over the next few days,” he confirmed.

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