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Assistant to Personal Development Programme Manager
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

Following the completion of the modular elements of my postgraduate degree, I have decided to apply for the Ahead scheme in order to enrich my existing volunteering practice at St. Wilfrid's Centre. Thanks to the funding, I could commit to my usual role on a full-time basis for three weeks. St. Wilfrids is a special place that truly makes a difference. It also informed much of my understanding during my history degree because much of the theory discussed in seminars was directly applicable to the various activities that I ran with the clients at the Centre on the Friday morning computer class. For example, I have been working with a client on constructing his personal history - merging elements of oral history with traditional research, in order to produce a variety of materials codifying his own life story. The Ahead placement offered me the opportunity to make a concrete contribution to both history and the Centre by designing a history course for the clients to be used at the computers' class.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Through family or friends

Main responsibilities

As an assistant to the PDP (personal development programme) manager, I was able to contribute in two main ways - firstly, by involving myself directly in the everyday running of the Centre's PDP but also by actively contributing to it by designing a history course based on a set of IT literacy and historical skills.

Typical day

The Centre opens for staff at 8:30am. The PDP manager was based in the office of the woodwork workshop, located in the basement of the Centre. I spent most of my working days (although those varied at times) in the office, shadowing the manager and supporting him in a variety of tasks. In my own independent time, I was able to focus on my history course.

Shadowing the manager included taking phone-calls, conducting marketing for the Centre (producing leaflets, flyers, promotional materials and sending them off to potential customers for the Centre's woodwork produce), participating in PDP meetings, taking minutes and producing summaries and reports on the meetings. Of course, I had plenty of time to interact with the clients, participate in the running of the various workshops and the general operation of the Centre.

In my own independent research time, I designed a full history-centred course for the clients incorporating four individual and two team projects.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I absolutely loved integrating myself into the closely-knit staff team at the Centre. My experience of it hitherto has been very much that of a volunteer. It was fascinating to actually "become" a member of staff, if only for a period of three weeks. That contributed to a sense that I am contributing to improve people's lives even more fully than I would as a casual volunteer.

Challenging aspects

Some of the activities were a learning curve, as was the pace of some of the assignments. Designing the course also required much patience and falling back on my experience and knowledge, ensuring that the course content is differentiated and made applicable to both the clients' needs and abilities.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Use university and time in higher education as an opportunity to explore your local community and enrich it in every way possible. I would argue that alongside my studies, doing stuff like volunteering is equally as enriching as getting a first class degree or an award. I cannot stress enough how important to your personal development are things done outside of your degree, and remember that employers never hire graduates who have no real-life experience outside of their studies.

University is a fantastic time in your life where you do actually have some time to do a bit extra. It is refreshing, it supports your local community and most importantly, it holds untold value for you personally.

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Form completed: 11 Jul 2017

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