05 Oct 2023
Health Innovation Manchester hosts students on placement from Manchester Metropolitan University
Last year, Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) hosted four students who were on placement from Manchester Metropolitan University. The students each brought a diverse range of experience to the organisation and spent time with our Research & Education, Patient & Public Involvement and Engagement, Insight & Intelligence, and Industry/Commercial teams. Here, we reflect on the experience, what we learned, and why placements can be valuable for both students and employers alike.
With over 100,000 students at our Greater Manchester universities, we live and work in an area with a hugely talented and diverse student body. Alongside their studies, many students have skills, specialist knowledge, and an interest in applying this in a professional setting while studying.
Last year, the Research & Education team began exploring the potential of hosting students across the organisation from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It soon became clear that there was the potential for a truly symbiotic relationship, understanding that for the initiative to be successful, everyone (students, colleagues, HInM, and MMU) must benefit from the experience.
Setting up the schemes
Following interest across four teams, we agreed to pilot two schemes, hosting two students from each:
- A RISE internship, a 70-hour programme providing more students with the opportunity to undertake work experience, designed to be relevant to their field of study, future ambitions, and allow them to gain accreditation for taking part as part of their degree, and;
- A work-based learning programme, to provide students studying BSc (Hons) Psychology, and other disciplines, with the opportunity to develop their employability skills whilst gaining experience within a workplace over 7 days (1 day a week).
We then laid the foundations for the placements to ensure that any students were successfully onboarded and had a positive experience. This was no mean feat, and as these schemes were new to HInM, involved a fair amount of effort and coordination. This included pulling together expressions of interest from colleagues, working with MMU to advertise the opportunity, reviewing applications and informally ‘interviewing’ candidates.
Once we had an idea of who would be joining us, we then worked with our Human Resources and Information Governance teams to ensure we had agreements in place, generated email addresses, produced induction materials and registered the placements with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT)
When the students joined us, we worked with them to produce schedules and objectives and ensured that they were all successfully onboarded. We would like to extend a huge thank you to all colleagues who supported this process.
What we learned
Nicky Timmis, Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement Manager, took part in both work experience schemes and shared her thoughts on the experience below
The seed of this idea originally came from a freelance community development worker, supporting us to reach/ engage with marginalised groups regarding the Greater Manchester Care Record (GMCR)
They suggested how it might be mutually beneficial for HInM to offer placements to MMU health and social care students. Students would have an opportunity to learn more about public involvement, research and innovation and the role these can play in terms of improving the health and well-being of local people and tackling health inequalities and it would increase HInM’s capacity. I mentioned this idea to Lloyd and the rest is history!
From what I recall, it took many months of planning before we were able to recruit our first students.
The focus of the time students spent working alongside me was very much around raising the students’ awareness regarding the absolute value of including the public in our portfolio of work and the dangers of not doing so; provision is not accessible, fit for purpose or meet patient’s needs.
Activities included meeting members of HInM’s diverse Public and Community panel so students could develop an understanding that patients are not a homogeneous group but have a wide range of differing needs, lived experience, skills, and knowledge to bring. Many panel members are living with long-term conditions and the students were able to hear how panel members used this lived experience to help inform/ shape our projects and programmes.
The students were also encouraged to consider the importance of tailoring communications, so they are accessible to a wide audience. Students were tasked with developing a plain language Opportunity form, that was then circulated through our external networks to recruit public contributors to get involved in a project. The ambition was that students would take this learning with them in their future careers.
I learned the importance of collaborating with colleagues to make the placements work and be a positive experience for all involved. Also, that hosting students was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be and that I am actually quite old now – when did that even happen?!
Students often need to work in addition to their studies and this can limit the times/ days they are available.
If possible, try and understand students’ availability before students start or at the earliest opportunity thereafter so you can plan their time on placement. It can be crucial to elicit the support of colleagues / different business units in advance to offer placements to students so not one staff member or business unit is responsible for filling their time. It can also ensure that students’ time can be spent productively, and they can get a taste of different aspects of the organisation.
What the students learned
From the feedback received, the students enjoyed the experience and agreed that they knew who to contact if they needed support and that the internship enabled them to meet their objectives. They agreed that the placement provided opportunities to develop their skills which had a positive impact on their learning, and overall, they rated the placement at HInM highly and agreed that they would recommend other students to complete an internship here.
One student reflected on the experience, commenting “The team at Health Innovation Manchester were so lovely and understanding. They provided great opportunities also”