Covid-19 Questions & Answers for Employers
Information for employers in relation to Covid-19.
Are Ulster students continuing their placement during COVID-19?
Although our students are unable to attend campus due to the current UK government directives and restrictions, the University is not closed. In response to the current unprecedented circumstances, we have repurposed our education provision to maintain teaching through digital channels.
Just as we are making decisions in the best interests of the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, we know that our placement employers will be making similar appropriate adjustments to business operations. We appreciate that when companies also take measures to safeguard their employees at this time, those will include our students, as employees. This may involve social distancing in the work environment, working off-site or at home or in some circumstances, bringing the placement to an early conclusion. We respect and support the decisions our placement employer partners may need to make and will provide assurance and support to any impacted students currently completing placements or scheduled to commence for the 20/21 academic year.
You can find out more about our plans and preparations for the incoming 20/21 Academic Year at https://www.ulster.ac.uk/coronavirus.
I have made a placement offer to a student for the next academic year 2020/21 but I am now unsure if the placement can still go ahead?
We appreciate that business needs are changing at a fast pace and a degree of uncertainty might remain for a period of time. We encourage you to get in touch with us as soon as possible if you think a placement cannot go ahead, or if you would like to discuss a more flexible approach to the placement position. We will also be happy to explore with you alternative models of placement/work experience that may work for the business whilst also supporting a student in their studies and career progression.
I recruit Ulster placement students annually but can’t make recruitment decision until later this year; will the University still advertise opportunities for students?
The recruitment cycle for placement and graduate opportunities remains continuous; in the past many vacancies are filled between May and September. Through the online vacancy portal, Ulster University is applying as much flexibility as possible and being responsive to promoting employer partnerships across all industry sectors. Actions taken by both employers and the University in response to COVID-19 may mean that recruitment continues beyond September and into the start of 2021.
Could I still recruit an onsite work placement?
You should consider the following steps to ensure the duty of care to the student whilst in the workplace to ensure you support their health, safety and wellbeing:
- Keep the student updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace
- Ensure social distancing is adhered to in the workplace particularly if a student is in a vulnerable group. If a student is in an extremely vulnerable group, they should be shielded and supported to work remotely.
- Ensure you have emergency contact details for the student on file
- Ensure the student is aware how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and is clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
- Provide hand sanitiser and encourage student to wash hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Further information is available to keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on NI Direct.
Have placements and internships changed in line with new business practice?
Since the emergence of COVID-19, the variety of placement and internship activity now includes remote working environments such as a student’s home.
A virtual internship may involve work related to digital project(s), research or consultancy that employers can outsource to a student or a group of students.
A virtual internship may be completed remotely online, working under the direction of the supervisor you have assigned.
The student will be in regular contact with the supervisor/team via virtual methods such as email, phone or other secure platform supplied by your business.
I’m not sure there will be work for the full year ahead
A student must complete a minimum 24 weeks’ experience, this may be accumulated through a series of on- and off-site remote and virtual work activity, retaining flexibility to meet your business requirements.
We have also adjusted the expectation for start dates, we appreciate a start date in September 2020 may not be suitable and have extended the date until January 2021 as the latest date for a student to commence their experience.
Payment for students on placement and internships
Students undertaking placement and internship are primarily concerned with the opportunity for personal and professional development and they hope, through comprehensive induction and ongoing support, to be encouraged to fit into the business and make a positive contribution as an employee within a team.
Payments vary according to industry and work roles, please contact the University to discuss creating an attractive offer in terms of pay and conditions, as part of a package that includes opportunities for training and other benefits.
Can the University provide support with recruiting placement students?
We are happy to support any employer who wants to provide a placement opportunity for our students. We can support the recruitment process in a range of ways including recruitment and selection advice, promotional campaigns and student engagement with vacancies.
If you want to advertise a placement opportunity you can directly add this to our online vacancy portal, Recruit and we will bring it to the attention of relevant students.
How do I advertise a virtual internship?
- Identify a project(s) within your company that will allow a student to expand his/her skills. Consider your company’s current needs and develop your projects around those areas. Identify realistic goals and outcomes.
- Advertise. We can help and support you with your advertising free of charge on our Recruit vacancy portal which is accessible to students.
- Once submitted, students will be able to view and apply based on the information that you provide. In addition, the Employability & Careers team will promote your opportunity to our students and on our social media pages.
How do I get a student started in remote working?
As an employer, you will safeguard standards of health, safety and wellbeing for all staff, whether working on- or off-site. In addition to established induction practice addressing terms and conditions of the employment (payroll, holiday entitlements, absence process, equality, etc), key aspects of remote working you will agree with the student should include:
- Provide contact details and introduction to the supervisor/line manager who will support and mentor a student throughout the internship
- Technological requirements such as access to resources, data security and support.
- How and when you will communicate with each other, you may use email, webinar, phone and online collaboration platforms.
What additional support might a student need during the placement and internship?
An employer can support a student’s wellbeing in these new remote work settings. The student will be trying to get the best idea of what it is like to be part of your team, working in your business, considerations to make this more real include for the student may include:
- Involving the student in group work with colleagues to gain an insight into your business
- Invite the students to virtual team meetings and events such as coffee sessions and allow the student to get to know other members of the team to make connections.
- Provide the student with regular catch up meetings with their supervisor/manager to discuss progress and wellbeing.
What if I need to end the placement early?
We appreciate that when companies also take measures to safeguard their employees at this time, those will include our students, as employees. This may include social distancing in the work environment, working off-site or at home or in some circumstances, bringing the placement to an early conclusion. We respect and support the decisions our placement employer partners may need to make and will provide assurance and support to any impacted students. In these circumstances please refer to your central point of contact detailed in the placement agreement.
What support for the student will I receive from the University during the work placement?
The University expects every student receive 2 visits; in a virtual placement context, early contact may be made through telephone contact or Skype. Timing and frequency of contact and assessment updates depends upon the length of the placement.
Can the University provide support with recruiting graduates?
Whether you're continuing with your recruitment plans or having to realign with your business priorities and current operations, we know that COVID-19 will be challenging you in new ways. We are continuing to work with all employers in these unprecedented times providing expert advice, tailored campaigns and recruitment consultancy.
Employers can continue to access our graduate Vacancy Portal, Careers Connect to post permanent and contract graduate opportunities free of charge and we will bring it to the attention of relevant finalists.
What other ways can I recruit a student or graduate to support our business requirements?
The world of work is changing, and we want our students and graduates to play a pivotal role in helping local, national and international businesses of all sizes to innovate and grow. There are a range of work-experience, internship, placement and graduate programmes that we can discuss with you including short-term, year-long, virtual and micro placement options.
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