Employers offering invaluable work placements to students were honoured last night at a University of Ulster gala award ceremony hosted by BBC presenter Donna Traynor.
Leaders of local and national enterprises attended the second Ulster Placement Employer of the Year (PEOTY) awards at the Jordanstown campus.
The majority of Ulster’s students undertake periods of long or short-term placements as an integral part of their degree. This period of work experience allows students to put theory into practice and increases their employability skills.
More than 100 guests heard senior University academics praise the important role of work experience in students’ professional, career and personal growth.
Employers in the public and private sectors and Ulster students and staff were invited to nominate ‘placement partners’ who had provided exemplary student experience during the past 12 months.
Senior officers from the University and industry representatives presented awards to winners in the 2010 competition which has attracted more than 180 nominations.
Winners of the six categories were: IBM UK Ltd, Parker Green International, Department of Radiology - Causeway Hospital, Partnership Care West, Northgate Information Solutions and Translink.
Lynda Shannon, Communications Manager at Translink, was presented with the Placement Employer of the Year Award as nominated by an Ulster staff member.
She said: “It’s wonderful to be recognised in this way and especially as we were nominated by one of the University’s academics.
“We have been taking placement students for the past 10 years – it’s really nice to be making a difference to young people and hopefully helping them at the beginning of their careers.”
Briege McKeag, Practice Educator at the Causeway Hospital, picked up the award in the public sector category. “We were surprised to win but very happy. It’s very nice for all the staff in the Department of Radiology who work with the students – we love having the students and they seem enjoy the experience too.”
Many Ulster students undertake periods of long or short-term placements as an integral part of a vocational-specific degree or an enhancement of study programmes.
Professor Richard Millar, Dean of Computing and Engineering and Chair of the University Work-Based Learning Sub Committee, said: “Student placements add value for our students, the employers and for us as educators. For the student it is an opportunity to develop employability skills and an awareness of the workplace culture and it encourages self development through critical reflection.
“Employers gain an intelligent and motivated member of staff, an injection of new and fresh ideas as well as developing their links with the university. For the university, we see mature and reflective students who have greatly enhanced their prospects of employment - often returning to their placement employer after graduation."
Professor Denise McAlister, University Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning and Chair of the 2010 judging panel, said: “I am delighted once again at the breadth of the diversity of the organisations and sectors represented in this year’s competition.
“Notwithstanding, the difficult challenges facing employers in the current economic climate, it is encouraging to note that they continue to see the benefits of planning for, and investing in, the skills and knowledge needed for future growth and prosperity.
“The University of Ulster is recognised locally and nationally for its high quality professional and vocational education. Learning through work is a powerful tool for widening participation and employer engagement and addressing the regional and national governments’ agendas to improve skills and productivity in economically relevant subjects, in particular stem skills, and to maximise innovation, enterprise and creativity.”
An independent panel assessed the submissions and in recognition of the extremely high standard shortlisted 18 nominees in six categories.
Each category winner received a crystal award and the remaining 12 finalists received highly commended certificates.
The results were: Placement Employer of the Year Award (6 months plus) - over 50 employees: Winner – IBM UK Ltd
Placement Employer of the Year Award (6 months plus) - up to 50 employees: Winner – Parker Green International, Newry
Public sector Placement Employer of the Year Award: Winner – Department of Radiology, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
Short-term Placement Employer of the Year Award: Winner – Partnership Care West, Londonderry
Placement Employer of the Year Award as nominated by an Ulster student: Winner – Northgate Information Solutions, Belfast
Placement Employer of the Year Award as nominated by a staff member at Ulster: Winner - Translink