Placement students are the lifeblood of our global business

Global chemicals specialist Lubrizol has its European Research and Development Centre in Hazelwood in Derbyshire. Mike Harding, Lubrizol’s Global Communications Manager, describes the importance of university placements to the company.

Part of the team

We may have a multi-million-pound turnover and customers in more than 100 countries, but Lubrizol UK’s reliance on placement students increases every year.

In fact, such is their contribution to my department, global communications, that, if I did not have a placement student as part of our team, we would have to employ someone.

This is no exaggeration. Our global comms students are not here for low-level tasks that nobody wants. They’re an integral part of the team with their own responsibilities and duties, with the pressures and expectations that go along with it.

In return, they experience working for a world-leading organisation in a diverse role that, with guidance, is free for them to make their own.

A year in business

Recently, we said goodbye to the first University of Derby student to spend a year with us in global communications. Alex Jackson had joined us during the third year of her Business degree.

We recruit our student placements from Business courses because, although we need them to have completed marketing and communications modules, we benefit from the knowledge they acquire from the international element of their degrees.

We are based in Hazelwood, near Belper, but every day Alex communicated with people across the world. This required an understanding of how to do business with other cultures. The way people approach things in India is very different to how things are done in the USA!

Alex was able to assimilate this knowledge, while she also brought with her business acumen. This is vital because, while our work is creative, much of it is repetitive and it requires a business analyst’s understanding.

At the coal face

One example concerned Alex’s responsibility in managing our huge images library. The task includes the cataloguing of thousands of photographs and editing video footage into short, comprehensive clips.

It’s a big job, but Alex delivered it without failing to take into account that it will be accessed by Lubrizol employees all over the world in order to create revenue.

She also generated product marketing information, benchmarked competitor pricing and supported our marketing and sales teams. That is not what you’d expect from a student placement role. You don’t work closer to the coal face than that.

Elsewhere, Alex took on communications projects and helped pilot our aerial footage drone. And she came into her own organising charity events. This task requires excellent organisation and the personality to persuade colleagues of varying ages and experience to get involved.

Benefit for the future

Alex thrived throughout everything and much of what she has put in place will benefit the company in the future, as well as influence the duties of future students.

In return, we saw her grow as a professional and a person. We know that the opportunity will stand her in good stead for her career.

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