Benefits of a professional placement

I’m in my first year of studying BSc (Hons) Physical Activity, Nutrition and Health and one of my units is called the Professional Placement. For this module I have completed over 50 hours’ of work experience with Steps for the Future (in partnership with Live Well Derby).

Steps for the Future is a Derby-based charity that provides dance, music, health and well-being classes for adults who have special needs. Because they are a person-centred, multicultural and student led organisation, it was a fantastic opportunity to reach my 50 hours of work experience that would improve my people skills and add something extra to my CV. I was able to reach that goal before the end of the first semester.

When I started volunteering with Steps in summer 2018, I thought it would be a great opportunity to make new friends and gain practical experience in my field of interest. Now I understand it to be much more than that. As part of my Bachelor’s degree, I needed to provide a 1500 word essay based on work experience in the health industry. During a one to one meeting with my course leader, I was briefed on what I needed to include in my personal statement and how I could begin recording relevant information at an early stage.

To my sheer delight, I realised that I had already gained over 40 hours of relevant work experience with Steps before my course even started! I also kept a weekly Live Well group session log of my experience and contribution to the organisation, which gave me a head start when it came to writing my essay; at the end of each Live Well group session, I sent a brief report by email to my volunteering coordinator. This took a great deal of pressure off me, so I was able to focus my energies on other areas of the course. Taking the opportunity to volunteer is a decision I will never regret.

My advice to anyone looking to study at the University of Derby is to build a strong relationship with the lecturers, do plenty of background research, and gain as much understanding of the course content as possible, even before the class lectures start. This will enable you to be better prepared and equipped to accomplish the necessary tasks that the course entails, and have a greater possibility of passing the course successfully; it was through effective communication with my course leader before the course started that enabled me to have a clear understanding of where I needed to look to find relevant work placement opportunities, and how to gain the most from them. Take every opportunity to volunteer in your area of interest as the University of Derby is instrumental in helping students to get their work experience recognised by employers.

In addition to putting my academic skills into practice, my experience with Steps for the Future has helped me to develop useful people skills such as effective communication, active listening skills, the ability to relate to different people, patience with others, and more. I know these attributes will be beneficial throughout my career, advising people on how to become healthier and monitoring their progress.

Choosing to study a degree at the University of Derby was a bold step for me, but it is definitely one I will never regret taking. If you are looking for a creative, aspirational and learner-friendly environment where you can be equipped for a successful career, it’s definitely the place to be.

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