Work experience that makes a difference

Ever wondered how you can help students gain important skills?

City’s Micro-Placements Programme is a social mobility initiative where employers in London are matched with City students. The students are primarily from under-represented backgrounds and the four to six-week placements provide work experience and course credits.

We recently spoke to City alumna Bhavina Bharkhada (Economics with Integrated Professional Training, 2012) who offers micro-placements at Make UK, and City student Tony Mandungu who completed influential work at Make UK last summer.

Tony Mandungu
City student Tony Mandungu.

“The micro-placement was an amazing experience,” Tony Mandungu says. “I learned so much and I was able to accomplish new tasks that I have never completed before, and I have developed many useful and transferable skills for the future.”
Tony is an International Politics student at City and she did her placement at Make UK, a trade association for UK manufacturers, last summer. It was the first time Make UK offered micro-placements to City students and it was on the initiative of City alumna Bhavina Bharkhada, who is the association’s Head of Policy & Campaigns.
“We don’t just lobby the Government, we’ve actually got a training centre in Birmingham where we train 400 apprentices,” Bhavina says. “But we found that we don’t have anything if you want to become a policymaker or if you want to get involved in politics. Then we stumbled across this scheme, partly because I’m a City alumna as well, and we thought this could be something really good where we can show young people that policymaking is really important and plays a role in developing the decisions that affect everyone’s lives.”
For Bhavina, improving diversity and inclusion in the sector was also an important motivation.
“Especially when I go to different roundtables or events, everyone looks the same and I think we can do our bit as an organisation to make sure that people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different races, can see policymaking as a place for them.”

Bhavina Bharkadha
Bhavina Bharkadha, Make UK

Tony was one of two City students at Make UK last summer and she worked on a project that has made a real impact.
“My favourite part of the placement was being able to present my independent research on green skills to senior staff members and leading policy researchers from Green Alliance,” Tony says.
“What we wanted to do in this piece of work was understand what steps we need to take in order to get those green skills in our business to become much more efficient,” Bhavina explains. “Tony carried out the literature review, the research, the interviews with stakeholders who have already been doing work in this space. They actually wrote the entire report, which was no easy feat.”
The report was published and later presented at a private dinner at the Labour Party Conference with senior politicians like Ed Miliband and Rachel Reeves in attendance.
“They were really happy with the report, and it shaped a lot of the work that the Labour Party have done in forming their public position,” Bhavina says.

Tony found out about the Micro-Placement Programme through an email from City and felt it would be right for her.
“I decided to apply because I thought it was an excellent programme that would provide me with vital transferable skills for my future career. I also believed that it would bring me out of my comfort zone and introduce me to new challenges,” Tony says.
“My biggest challenge was overcoming my shyness and learning to adapt to situations where I was placed in meetings and I had to interact and collaborate with policy experts and staff members.”
The application was followed by an interview process to make sure candidates were paired up with suitable businesses.
“I found the selection process quite easy as each stage was very well explained and clearly structured. I particularly enjoyed the virtual assessment centre experience as it was very engaging,” Tony says.
According to Bhavina, Make UK looked for candidates that were motivated to get the most out of the experience and not be intimidated.
“There’s going to be loads of new experiences and you just have to go with the flow half the time. You don’t know what you’re doing because it’s usually your first time working, but if you can adapt to that and feel confident enough to ask questions, you’ll be flying. You’re halfway there.”

What would Bhavina tell other businesses who might be considering a micro-placement?
“I know sometimes businesses think they don’t have the time or the resources to dedicate to it, but actually it doesn’t take that much, and you can get a lot of value from it. So just do it!”
She mentions that Make UK received support from City throughout the process, which made it even easier, and one of the benefits of taking part was being challenged on how things are done.
“It made us rethink how we approach some policy issues. Often when you work in a team for a while, you begin to think the same way and you approach problems in the same way. Just having fresh blood saying “Oh, I didn’t think that’s how you did it” made us think again,” Bhavina says.
She stresses how impressed she was with the work completed by both students during the placements. So much so that Make UK is taking part in the Programme again this year.
For Tony, the time spent at Make UK helped her gain valuable experience and a better understanding of what she wants to do.
“Regarding the future, the biggest benefits of the placement have been developing new and important skills, making new connections, and becoming more aware of the career that I intend to go into in the future,” she says.
Tony is due to graduate this summer and hopes for a career in public policy.

A big thank you to Tony Mandungu and Bhavina Bharkhada for sharing their experiences! If you would like to know more about City’s Micro-placement Programme and how to take part, please visit the dedicated webpage or email .