Journalism Skills and Work-Based Learning

Journalism skills and work-based learning

Claire Wolfe, University of Worcester Abstract:

This paper explores how higher education providers can support journalism students to secure work placements in the media sphere. It considers the increasing importance of preparing graduates for work, not only in journalism but also in related fields like marketing and PR, Social Media Management and Copywriting. The research provides an insight, from a student perspective, into what skills they found most helpful in securing placements, during the experiential learning and subsequently in seeking paid work. The research also assesses methods of alerting students to work opportunities. The survey was distributed to years 2 and 3 students and a sample of graduates at the University of Worcester. It concludes that the multi-skilled approach to journalism teaching is seen to be effective at securing placements and ultimately work by the students. One to-one support from tutors in seeking work is valued highly while the use of social media is increasing. Students make recommendations as to how staff can further assist them in their careers.

Keywords: journalism skills; experiential learning; social media; cross-transferable skills; employability

The demands upon academic institutions to help students make the transition from study into work have steadily grown as society and the higher education environment have evolved.

Students, paying substantial amounts of money to study at degree level, are becoming more discriminating about which universities to select, which courses to pick and what careers to embark upon. “You want to do a vocational course,” Susan Young (2012) wrote in the Guardian, “because if you are going to rack up debts you need to have a job at the end.” This cash for investment mentality influences decision making from the onset of A-levels or their equivalents. A future with prospects and with knowledge and skills to enable a smooth transition from university into the world of work has become the central goal for many students. “This change has led to descriptions, sometimes pejorative, of universities now primarily being involved in ‘higher vocational education’” (Billett, 2009). With this shift in focus to more occupationally specific courses have also come expectations that graduates will enjoy smooth transitions from their university studies into professional practice (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills 2008 in Billett, 2009). Graduates are expected to have the capacities to engage immediately and effectively in the professional setting where they secure employment.

In the UK, the government have looked to universities to bridge this gap for a number of years and there is an increasing pressure to provide courses with ‘transferable’ skills and to be transparent about the number of students entering graduate-level employment. “‘Key skills’ and ‘employability’ are seen-and promoted-by governments as desirable components of first-cycle higher education curricula” (Knight and Yorke, 2003, p.vii, preface).

Commenting on the 2001 Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) report on teaching practices in Higher Education, which found fault with assessments linked to ‘off-campus learning’ and transferable ‘key’ or ‘core’ skills, Knight and Yorke (2003, pvii, preface) say there was almost complete silence from the 23 learning institutions over employment. Demands to address this have been ‘sharpened’ they argue by:

“increasing expectations of higher education, not least that it should contribute explicitly to the employability of new graduates and, by extension, to countries’ economic well being in times when ‘knowledge economies’ are seen as prime sources of wealth” (cited in Leadbetter, 2000 ,p.iv, preface).

But this is not a new concept. “The idea that learning should be linked to work has a noble educational ancestry. Its philosophical roots can be traced to John Dewey, and still earlier to John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau” (Boud, Solomon and Symes, 2001, p.9). Dewey argued that the theme of work could be an organising principle of the curriculum. As stated in the Robbins Report of 1963, few would enter higher education without an eye to subsequent employment (Knight and Yorke, 2003,p.1).

The notion of enterprise within higher education was embraced by the Employment Department’s Enterprise in Higher Education (EHE) initiative of the late 1980s (p.1). Then the Dearing Report on higher education (NCIHE 1997) went further, stating “Education and Training [should] enable people in an advanced society to compete with the best in the world” (NCIHE, 1997:para1: 11 in Knight & Yorke, 2003, p.1). The Dearing Report urged the HE sector to focus on ‘key skills’ (communication, numeracy, information technology and ‘learning how to learn’) (p.6). These skills can be used to underpin a range of actions in employment and, debatably, can also be transferable from one type of experience to another (p.4).

This has necessitated a gradual shift in approach from academics that are no longer able to focus solely on educational provision and the pastoral care of their students. Workbased learning is one of the innovations “attempting to engage seriously with the economic, social and educational demands of our era” (Boud, Solomon and Symes 2001, p.3). They describe work experience as “a class of university programmes that bring together universities and work organisations to create new learning opportunities in workplaces” (p.4). Partnerships are one important element with work placed learning modules where frameworks for recognising prior learning and “capstones”, or the achievement of benchmarks are considered to be critical (pp.4-7).

But not all opportunities are generated through partnerships. Many students are encouraged while at universities to seek their own placements within industry to help improve their CVs. Hence there is a difference between the types of work experience being taken up by the students. The partnership arrangements tend to be more organised with a clearer structure. The ad-hoc placements secured independently by students tend to generate mixed feedback, with some providers clearly not being aware of the students prior learning and not offering them opportunities to develop their skills while being of use to the organisation.

“For the employer they create an ongoing relationship with an educational institution that comes to understand the needs of the organisation itself. For the educational institution they create links with new areas of educational need and diversify their sources of income” (Boud, Solomon and Symes 2001p.5).

These partnerships tend to have a contractual arrangement or memorandum agreement. Employability can be defined in different ways – as graduates actually gaining jobs, through the student being developed by the extra curricula activity and, lastly, in terms of their personal achievements and the potential it generates (p4).

Graduate employment is measured through the ‘first destination statistics’ in which graduates employment status six months after graduating is indexed (p.209). But as Knight and Yorke state: “the true value of employability can only be ascertained over a considerable length of time” (p. 209), thus making the “softer” concept of employability more useful.

Clearly there is a role for some reflection over work-based learning, a concept described as metacognition by Knight and Yorke (2002) with their USEM model (p7-8). With work placements taken without attached assessment there is no formal way to assess the experience, other than through a rudimentary method as I have adopted.

Employment Prospects for Journalism Graduates

Some subjects, including journalism, are more easily identifiable as providing potential routes into employment.

“Across many advanced industrial economies, there is a shift in the emphasis within university programs towards those that are primarily concerned with the preparation for specific occupations, and away from the liberal arts” (Lomas 1997 in Billett, 2009).

Those that combine practical skills development offer scope, not only for direct employment in the industry, but in related sphere like Public Relations, Communications, Social Media Management and Publishing. A Labour Force Survey (ONS 2014) indicates that the number of journalists has actually increased from 57,000 in 2007 to 70,000 in 2013 (Ponsford, 2014). Those in full time employment have risen from 30,000 to 37,000 over the same period with another 5,000 in part time employment. The others are working as freelancers, either full or part time.

Ponsford (2014) argues:

Many of the jobs in journalism that have gone over the last five years have been people on local papers…(while)…Many of the new jobs which have been created involve creating ‘content’ for ‘brands’.

A National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) report also noted that over a 10-year period (2002 –2012) the number of journalists had remained roughly constant (Spilsbury, 2014).

However, it is clear that the traditional newspaper industry has retracted with a stark picture being painted in a 2013 National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Report: “According to Press Gazette, 242 local papers shut between 2005 and the start of 2012” (NUJ, 2013). Johnston Press’s annual reports from the five years from 2007 to 2012 revealed that the number of full-time journalists was down by 44 per cent from 2,774 to 1,558. Mail General Trust admitted that half of its 4,200 staff in the Northcliffe regional newspaper division had been cut since 2008” (NUJ, 2013).

However, there has been a steady increase in the number of graduates entering the workplace. High Fliers research (2014,p.10) based on surveys with top employers, states the outlook is “significantly more upbeat with the UK’s leading employers expecting to hire 8.7% more graduates than were recruited during 2013– the highest annual increase in vacancies for four years.” However, they expected media recruitment to be down 6.4% on 2013. The ONS report on graduates found that people with a degree in medicine or dentistry had the highest employment rate of all graduates, at 95%, followed by those with media and information studies degrees at 93%” (Allen 2013). Furthermore 72% of journalism graduates are in employment six months after graduating with 27% of these going on to work in arts, design, culture and sports and a further 14% work in marketing, sales and advertising (Allen, 2013). The proportion of recent graduates working in jobs not usually requiring a higher educational qualification, however, rose to 47% from pre-recession levels of 39%, ONS figures show (Allen 2013).

With fewer openings into the print industry it has become more important for course tutors to help students identify other suitable career paths whether in broadcasting – where substantial cuts have also taken place- or in the burgeoning, but uncertain, digital media sphere. James Harding, the BBC’s head of news (2014), said despite their own plans to make “hundreds of job losses” due to cuts in news programming, digital jobs were increasing. “While Buzzfeed and the Daily Beast have been hiring outstanding journalists from The Times and The Guardian, those papers have been learning the arts of list-making and viral video,” he said. He was optimistic about the future of journalism as digital opportunities for employment were created (Harding, 2014). David Montgomery (2013), chief executive of Local World, talks of the need for multi-skilled recruits:

“After training, the journalist will assume control of a segment or segments of content. He will singly be responsible for sourcing this content, collecting it and publishing it across all platforms.

 

 

“The journalist will embody all the traditional skills of reporter, sub-editor, editor-inchief, as well as online agility and basic design ability, achieved partly in training but in the case of on-screen capability this is expected as a basic entry qualification as it is now generally present in most 12-year-olds”

Spilsbury’s (2014) “Emerging Skills for Journalists’ report for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (2014, p.5) recognised that a wider range of abilities were required of those entering the media industries.

“Journalists are increasingly working across a range of platforms and need to have the skills to produce output specifically tailored to each of these different platforms. It could be argued that digital skills have become one of the core journalism skills. New entrants to journalism will have to be ‘digital natives’ and be completely at home with social media” (Spilsbury, 2014, p.5).

He highlights some of these skills stating:

“New and enhanced skills are needed in the areas of (i) ethics, (ii) quality control and fact checking, (iii) IT and digital skills, (iv) PR and communication strategy skills, (v) entrepreneurialism and freelancing, (vi) time management and managing workload skills and (vii) communication and ‘audience relationship’ skills” (Spilsbury, 2014, p.5).

The introduction of course fees and the increase to around £9,000 a year has so far failed to have a significant impact on university enrolments. “The highest level of entrants was recorded in 2013 with almost 496,000 students beginning full-time undergraduate courses” (Coughlan, 2013).

This makes it imperative to ensure that the learning undertaken on journalism courses positions graduates in the best possible way to secure graduate media related employment. The trend for an increasingly aging population with projections that number of over 65s will nearly double to 19 million by 2050 (Cracknell, 2010). A pattern of increased freelance usage (Jacobs 2013) makes it even more essential to equip journalism undergraduates with transferable knowledge and skills that will enable them to develop and make work transitions as necessary.

Employers consider experiential learning important and many actively look for on-thejob learning experiences on CVs. This is valued in the media industries as recruits are expected to work efficiently, to high standards and to tight deadlines from the minute they join the company. High Fliers (2014) highlighted that more than half of the top graduate recruiters state that due to the very obvious benefits of work experience to an individual’s skillset, graduates with work experience are prioritised in their selection processes. They predicted that 37% of vacancies in 2014 would be filled by graduates who had already worked for the employer (p.13), but did not see that as a significant factor in the media industry.The proportion of new graduates recruited directly through employers’ work experience programmes had jumped from 26% in 2010 to a record 37% in 2014 (p.36).

“Over half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes” (High Fliers, p.38).

Research Aims and Methodology

Research was undertaken to determine how effective work placement and career support was in the journalism department at the University of Worcester in equipping students for their future. Initiatives for notifying students of work and work experience openings including social media messaging were assessed to gauge their usefulness. Another aim was to get some feedback from students about the perceived usefulness of skills and knowledge secured while undertaking the BA (Hons) Journalism degree. In particular it would be interesting to see which attributes they felt helped them to secure placements and or work and which were the most useful while undertaking the various tasks asked of them. They would also be able to identify anything they felt was missing from their education that they felt would have helped them more. This would help to ensure they are prepared for the workplace and to consider any necessary changes to the course. There was a particular focus on year 3. The students were also asked to list any new skills and or experience they gained while on their placements. There were a number of other aims of the research. It was evident that many students were securing placements in addition to any required as mandatory for module assessment, and in many cases journalism staff were unaware of their activities. It was considered worthwhile finding out the level of engagement with work being undertaken by students to not only establish how they had secured it but to obtain information to enable the value of it to be determined. This would enable a wider range of work opportunities to be tracked and evaluated. These responses are not a major feature of this research paper. Finally the research would provide an opportunity for students to suggest ways in which the journalism team could further help them in securing placements and work.

The method used for this research was a questionnaire. It generated both quantitative and qualitative data to enable topics to be covered fully. It contained a series of closed questions with tick boxes and a number of questions consisted of lists requiring respondents to order them on a Likert numerical priority scale of 1-10 There were also a number of open questions asking for comment and views. There were 16 questions and students fell into three categories, year 2 students, year 3 students and recent graduates (up to one year). It was decided not to extend this to Year One, as some had not secured work placements at the time the research was undertaken. A few students were subsequently interviewed to obtain more in-depth information. Fifty responses were received from both single honours and joint honours students. It was decided to evaluate the responses not only across year groups but also depending on whether they had taken the single honours or joint journalism course.

Research Findings

Communicating with students

The methods used to advise students of work placement and employment opportunities were Twitter, the journalism course Facebook page, emails, journalism module sections of the university intranet, Blackboard, one to one discussions with journalism staff, talks and advise in work placement modules, talks and advise in other journalism modules and via industry speakers. Students were notified of the social media support verbally in classes and via emails.

The key points:

  1. One to one support from staff in securing placements and work was rated the highest;
  2. Many students were unaware of the social media alerts;
  3. Those using the social media tip offs rated them highly;
  4. Year 2 students used social media more than Year 3;
  5. Single honours students secured 50% more placements than those on joint honours courses.

Overall the students ranked the 8 listed methods of communications as follows:

  1. One to one discussion with journalism tutors
  2. Talks/advice in general journalism classes
  3. Industry speakers (highest for joints)
  4. Email notifications
  5. Blackboard notifications
  6. Talks/advice in work placement modules
  7. Facebook notifications
  8. Twitter notifications

A breakdown of responses from single honours and joint honours students was also analysed. This showed that, as indicated above, the latter group placed a higher value on industry speakers. This is likely as they would have had less direct contact with journalism tutors and also not taken as many modules where opportunities had arisen for advice in securing placements and work.

It was surprising that social media was ranked the lowest with both groups and their comments indicated that a significant number of them were unaware of these outlets and felt that they needed to be disseminated more widely. The questionnaire actually served to raise awareness of these links. However, the year 2 group rated Facebook higher.

Year Three

Tabw1

The student results were analysed separately and key findings are summarised below:

  • Most found work placements helpful with their career progression;
  • The skills provided on the course were felt to be beneficial with career development;
  • There was a correlation between those who used social media and the total number of placements secured (but this may be as they are using more methods for identifying

Skills and Knowledge

When asked to indicate the usefulness of skills and knowledge the students were presented with a list of 20. These included a range of skills involving print, broadcasting and Internet journalism together with knowledge of law and ethics and politics. They were asked to indicate which of these were acquired on the course and helped to secure a placement or to meet the challenges of the work experience. Again they were asked to rank them on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score.

Nearly all Single Honours students rated all 20 skills and knowledge highly (5 – 10). The ones scoring the highest (8-10) are as follows:

  1. News writing skills
  2. Radio Production
  3. Online writing
  4. Developing CVs
  5. Email interviews
  6. Uploading & managing content on the web
  7. Law & Ethics
  8. Contacts building
  9. Presentations

The graph opposite contains all the categories.

The scores differed slightly for the Joint Honour students, probably as they hadn’t had the opportunity to take as many journalism classes and acquire as many skills, for instance video production. However, they rated shorthand, an optional module, higher, which is interesting and possibly reflects a focus more on print based work rather than broadcasting. Seven of them gained an 8-10 score.

  1. News writing for print
  2. Online news writing
  3. Law & ethics
  4. CV building
  5. Presentation skills
  6. Email interviewing skills
  7. Contacts building
  8. Knowledge of politics
  9. Search Engine Optimisation awareness
  10. Telephone interview techniques
  11. Face-to-face interviewing techniques.

Year three single honours

Tabw2

Student Comments – Year 3

The students commented on the value of the placements and skill. A few of their observations are below:

“I was notified by an agency recently that my knowledge and experience with Google analytics and SEO had gained me attention from graduate recruiters.”

“Time keeping, professionalism, gave a career focus and developed editorial skills like writing coherently for publication.”

“Being able to get my name within the publication (Gloucestershire Echo) helped, resulting in them calling me for the odd article to be published.”

“The more experience you have the more valuable you become.”

“Links and contacts-useful tips for the real-life journalism world.”

“Learned different skills and made connections in the PR world. I was advised to apply for their graduate scheme.”

Year three joint honours

tabw3

“Being able to be confident with interviews over the phone and with vox pops using the equipment.”

“Learnt various camera settings; people placement in photographs.”

“Better understanding of managing workloads; research skills; organisation; brain storming.”

“Enabled me to understand the work ethics and understandings of sports broadcasting and interviewing.”

“Although I most definitely will not now look into marketing and PR jobs I believe any experience is valuable.”

“Learning to be professional and being taken seriously.”

“Media writing relevant to personal interest (American Football).”

“Interviewing people abroad over Skype.”

Year Two

The results for the Year 2 group differed and it was mainly noted that use of social media was higher for getting job alerts. This may have been due to a general increase in awareness of Twitter and or more students being aware of the journalism student Facebook page. The use of Twitter in the classroom has increased even over the one-year period since the current year 3 group started their final year.

The key findings in the Year 2 group were:

  • A higher percentage (about 75%) were using social media;
  • More placements were gained per student than Year 3;
  • Strong correlation between those who used social media and the total number of placements they had secured;
  • Although there was a higher use of social media, overall the ranking of methods was very similar to the Year 3 group.

It is also worth pointing out that while the average number of placements was higher in year 2, one student secured 18 and this will have affected the result.

tabw5

Year Two: Skills and Knowledge

In terms of the most helpful tuition the group had a significantly different rating.

Top 8 of 20 (most ranked 8-10)

  1. News Writing (Print)
  2. Contacts
  3. Skills in making applications for work placements
  4. Law & Ethics
  5. CV
  6. Face to face interviews
  7. Radio production
  8. Uploading content

Of significance, shorthand is rated higher by the Year 2 group along with analysing ways of monetising the web. Tuition in these areas has increased. Learning how to upload content to the web was higher than with the Year 3 group, most likely as the multi-platform approach has developed.

Student Comments – Year 2

The students commented on the value of the placements. A few of their observations are below:

“I feel that I have learnt more about how a real working news room works and the requirements in which a prospective employee will need to fill the role of a multitasking journalists. These placements will continue to broaden my knowledge and understanding of how the world of journalism works.”

“BBC Hereford-Worcester and the Birmingham Mail are the best regional organisations around and have helped me to make invaluable contacts.”

“BBC Radio1/1xtra have shown me what I need to do to get into radio broadcasting in the future.”

“Writing for broadcasting; being precise and to the point; getting relevant information; putting interviewees at ease; asking more relevant questions to get the best answer.”

“It gives you more confidence to come up with questions and improve your overall confidence.”

Having an up-to-date CV and contacts building seen as main strengths for securing employment and work placements.

Graduates: Skills and Knowledge

The skills they identified as being the most useful (rated 8-10)

  1. Up-to-date CV
  2. Contacts building
  3. Skills in making applications for work/placements
  4. Face to face interviewing skills
  5. Email interviewing skills
  6. Originating ideas
  7. Radio production skills
  8. Knowledge of law and ethics
  9. Use of software
  10. Uploading content to the web

The few scoring 4 and below were mostly skills that they didn’t take up as they hadn’t selected the modules.

Student Comments – Graduates

A few of their observations are below:

 “All placements have been as valuable for working out what I didn’t want to do and what I wanted to do. They gave me an insight into working life and the expectation of different media outlets.”

 

“In order to win the apprenticeship competition I have been a part of this year, I had to do a final interview. The skills and confidence I gained from my work placements were completely invaluable and being able to call on anecdotes from previous placements definitely played a part in me winning the competition and getting the opportunity I’ve had over the last year” (a winner of the Midlands Apprentice of the Year 2013).

 

“Increased understanding of the needs of employers in the news room environment.” 

 

“Yes, the work placement provided experience and skills, but more crucially, they provided a platform for me to showcase my work and meet the people who can give jobs. I now work at the BBC.”

 Satisfaction Level with Skills and Experience

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Overall, there was a high satisfaction level with the skills and experience provided on the course and the support provided by journalism staff to help students secure work placements and to be aware of job opportunities. It was noticeable that joint honours students commented on some skills that would have been helpful but were unable to acquire them due to being up to the limit with journalism modules or due to module clashes. A few students recommended other areas be included in the curriculum:

  • “Modern commercially-orientated communications.”
  • “Students should be taught that going into the industry will not be easy. I think that being in this university bubble students feel like it won’t be that bad so I think that they should be told all the bad and good in order for them to make the right choice in where they want to work and where they want to go after university.”

Satisfaction Level with Communication Methods

There were few suggestions for improving on ways of communicating work placements and jobs but those made were useful. They included further developing social media, the alumni network and links with professional organisations and setting up a dedicated website, newsletter and LinkedIn course jobs page. They were keen to have staff involvement via personal recommendations over the relative merits of various placements and more guidance over what to expect. Any initiatives to further develop their industry contacts, their links with local organisations and with PR and communications sections of the university were also recommended. There were a few rather hopeful suggestions, that there should always be a spare placement on hand and that the university pay expenses. However, these are issues born out of an increasingly pressurised work experience environment. It has become harder to source some traditional work experience openings for a variety of reasons and where placements do occur, more students are being expected to undertake them at their own cost.

New Skills Acquired

Students were able to identify specific skills and knowledge gained while on the placement. Some of those that weren’t being taught on the course are listed below and provide ideas for further development of the curriculum.

“Learning about Google Analytics; being left in charge of important details and fact files.”

“I learnt a lot about the advertising world; how to analyses spread sheets and looking at news adverts.”

“Doing a blog on someone else’s behalf; how to use corporate social networks; training on Adobe Elements; became involved in staff media training.”

“ Learning a lot about investigative journalism.”

“Communicating with the press and radio stations to act as a go between in arranging interviews.”

“Marketing/’business’ communications.”

“Perfecting my press releases.”

“Office etiquette.”

“Handling pressure and intimidation when dealing with peers and ‘famous people’- case in point Alistair Campbell and Ed Miliband.”

Stepping Stone into Work / Earn as You Learn

The students recognised the value of work experience in helping to secure permanent work and it was surprising to find a number of students already earning money following placements. One student was freelancing on a motorsport website, Talkative Broadcasting, after work experience and went straight into full time work with them after finishing the course. For two consecutive years students completing a one-month university/BBC partnership internship went straight into employment with them. One of them had earlier turned down the offer of work with a PR firm where he had been on a placement. A third year student said she was offered work by the National Childbirth Trust after a placement, but decided “not to pursue a career in PR.” Another student was earning money as a freelance throughout Year 3 working as an accredited journalist for goal.com covering premier league games and interviewing top players and managers. One student secured paid work as a Publishing Assistant for the Sustainability Department at the University of Worcester while completing her studies and was taken on full time when she graduated. After work experience on a regional paper one student said she was hopeful it would ‘maybe’ lead to work. Other students were advised to apply for the companies’ graduate schemes after successful work experience. Another was told by the daily regional newspaper where she had a placement that once she had achieved her 100wpm shorthand they would like her “to come back for an interview.”

Nature of Student Placements

The students were asked to state which placements they had been on and to indicate whether or not they were secured through university partnerships and links, namely via a BBC Diversity Media Partnership, a partnership with local community youth radio station, YOUTHCOMM, or via BJTC opportunities. It was interesting to discover that many placements were secured by students who used the prompts and advice supplied to make individual requests and connections. One year two student turned out to be a complete surprise having secured 18 placements, none of them via the routes indicated above. This student was interviewed to establish how he had achieved so many. He said:

“I worked out where I could get to from home and Worcester and then worked out where I had friends that I could stay with. I mapped out when I could carry out work experience and then applied to all of these places and tried to fit it all in. It has meant working through all the times I have not been at university but it has been worth it.”

Rating Placement

The students’ feedback on the placements was analysed to see if there were variations between organised opportunities, namely the BBC partnership, Youthcomm and BJTC and self-organised work experience.

The feedback from their placements showed the following key points:

  • A near 100% student satisfaction with the placement. Only a few negative comments were made, the vast majority all being favourable and recommending the organisation to future students;
  • No distinction between level of student satisfaction with types of placement i.e. self generated or through a partnership arrangement;
  • Students were often surprised by the level of responsibility they were given. This was well received and they enjoyed being able to operate with some independence;
  • A feeling of being supported and of belonging with the team. This in turn seems to have lead to…;
  • An increase in confidence and…
  • A clearer view of future job direction.

This material has been collated separately and is not part of this research paper. However, it is worth pointing out that having this databank has proved useful for providing advise about placements to those students embarking on work experience. The information has a particularly high value as it comes from students who have real experiences, although the changing nature of work environments and the staff needs to be taken account of. A sample of the students’ comments is below:

“My mentor was amazing! He literally treated me like a professional colleague and helped me report stories on air, share ideas for debates and help with future contacts etc.”

 

“Had a well set out plan for the week I was there and were not afraid to call on me to help out when other, more experienced, members of the team were unavailable at short notice.”

 

“Brilliant for blogging on sport and music. They sometimes pay for articles.”

 

“Shadowing my mentor was inspiring. He has done so much as an investigative journalist and seen so much that his advice was very much appreciated”. “Excellent having work published. Sports desk are friendly.”

 

“Open for articles and columns and easy to develop writing skills.”

 

“Chances to cover actual events and to be able to experience the work that needs to be done. You get to know the life of a reporter by hanging out with them.”

 

“I felt very much exploiting i.e. full time work for no pay and they tried to incorporate ‘promotions’ work into the role by wanting me to wear clothing with their logo on it.”

 

“Very helpful and gave lots of feedback on the work that I did. I was allowed to go to court and take notes.”

 

“A good place to do work experience being a renowned outlet with useful staff and hands on experience including voxs’, writing cues, news software etc.”

 

 

“Almost perfect for anyone who wants to go into broadcast and online journalism.”

 

“Friendly colleagues and it was a well-structured two week placement which they arranged around big events in sport i.e. live reporting on match days.”

 

“It’s challenging with little support. Your work has to be of a good standard and you have to construct your own interviews”

 

“Flexible arrangement working for an online organisation with just two assignments a week making it easy to do.”

“The staff are fun and lively” “I was involved in intense business meetings where I had to take notes, write them up and feed back to the board. Along with this I was given a task to create a marketing strategy for the company itself. The feedback is great and the knowledge you walk about with is brilliant.”

 

“Absolutely amazing. Small team so a sink or swim environment, but I was given unbelievable responsibility and shown nothing but trust. Supervision and training was fantastic and I, quite simply, can’t fault my experience there.”

Conclusion

It was clear from this research that the course content had helped the students to secure placements and was effective in bridging the educational-workplace divide. Students were enthusiastic about ways in which the course had helped to prepare them for employment, but also recognised the value of securing placements to fully equip them for that leap. It was also evident that the range of skills required has shifted along with digital developments and that a constant updating of the curriculum is needed to keep pace with these changes. The use of social media as a communications tool had increased within just one-year group.

The student feedback showed the range of work experience being undertaken and the breadth of knowledge required to meet employers’ expectations. It was useful that students could identify specific skills they learnt during the placements and that they recognised the value they added to their skill set. Along with the more obvious developments, like data journalism and mobile news provision (both already underway at Worcester), there needs to be an awareness of the other technical skills that will assist graduates in gaining employment within the broader PR and marketing sphere. Interestingly, the research also shows that while social media have an increasingly important role to play in helping students to secure work placements and employment that they continue to place a high value on one to one support from journalism staff. It is important that those personal links are retained while further efforts can be made to further increase opportunities for young people studying journalism at university.

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