Finding a different path

Finding a different path

One North East company is engaging with students to give them a taste of working life and to give itself the cream of the crop.

Advertising, design and marketing agency Different opened its doors to students last summer to give them an insight into working life.

Over 27 weeks, 69 students worked at the 40-strong Newcastle-based agency and one went on to secure a permanent position.

And the experiment was seen as such a success it will be repeated this year. Candidates were carefully selected and welcomed to the agency for a two week placement in teams including account handling, planning, digital, design and creative.

Lucy Craigs, 22, from Newcastle, attended summer school in July, after graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in journalism and after her two week placement was taken on by Different as a client partner. She says: “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after university and I was just doing placements and work experience and then the placement with Different came up.’’

She saw it advertised on the university jobs website, applied, had an interview a couple of days later and was given a placement.

She adds: “I loved it. I didn’t have any time when I was bored or when I didn’t know what I was doing. My placement was action packed, I was straight in at the deep end, attending photo shoots and writing job briefs; the experience was invaluable and securing a full time job from it really demonstrates the value of work placements. I definitely recommend anyone to do one.

“As soon as I got into it, I realised it was what I wanted to do. You sit in lectures but you don’t get any hands-on experience of what it’s like working within an agency where everything is going on.”

Each student is given a bespoke training programme to work through, depending on their interests and objectives.

They gain real experience; communicating with clients, attending meetings, working on live jobs and at the end of their placement give their own pitch presentation. Along with the summer school initiative, Different also ran a Creative Pioneers programme.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, IPA, initiative saw 100 businesses in creative and digital media sign up – joining the nationwide search for entrepreneurs.

The successful candidates secured internships to showcase their talent. Different was the only agency to be represented in the North East and provided paid internships for four candidates across Creative and Digital roles across a three-month period.

Two interns are still with the firm Following this year’s success, Different is already looking toward next summer and ways to improve its summer programme for 2013, with the key objective being to fuse academia with real life.

The firm says there is a substantial gap between students leaving education to entering the real world of work – a gap which Different wants to bridge, giving students an insight into the industry they couldn’t get in a lecture theatre.

Managing director, Yousaf Khalid, says: “I did work placements when I was at school and college and it was a pretty poor experience making the coffee and doing the photocopying. It was a matter of trying to find work for the students and everybody’s busy and in an SME even busier.

“Summer school created a positive buzz about us serving the community and giving students something really worthwhile. It has had other benefits throughout the business, giving middle managers the opportunity to demonstrate how much they know and to do some mentoring.

He adds: “The challenge for higher education now more than ever is to equip students with relevant industry experience. The challenge for industry is to give new talent an opportunity to flourish. Different summer school is a chance for both sides to work together in a seamless way.”

Summer school will be back in full force from May. Lucy says: “The number probably won’t be as high this year because we are trying to get quality over quantity but the aim is to have someone in every department for a two-week period from June to September.’’

The programme will be exclusive; students must earn their place and prove they have what it takes to thrive in an agency environment. Applicants who stand out will be shortlisted and interviewed before winning their place.