What is a Sandwich placement?

Many businesses have used sandwich placements to great effect; some get a student in each year, and many use the student to do a specific piece of work. You get a motivated and skilled student who can offer a fresh perspective. And a placement can also be a cost-effective alternative to offering a permanent job if the scope isn’t there, or even if you are struggling to find experienced candidates.

The placement generally forms the 3rd year of a 4 year university course. The students are learning as part of the placement, and their work is assessed by the university. Not all courses have this structure, only selected ones.

So, the student will have completed 2 years of their studies, and will already know quite a bit; they will return to complete their final year after they finish with you.

The placement generally lasts for around a year, usually from June or July (sometimes a little later) to fit in with term times. The student would be on your books as an employee. The salary doesn’t need to be as much as a graduate would get, but I would recommend paying at least living wage.

Don’t underestimate what sandwich placement students can do for you. They may have limited experience, but they can really contribute.

What can it be for?

It can be for a project, or just helping out with general work.

What benefits will I get?

The placement will be great for getting additional help

Should you be looking to the future, this is also a very good way of developing a graduate pipeline; the student will get to know the business, and hopefully develop an emotional attachment. Then, if a graduate level job is available when they finish their studies, they can join you.

Won’t I need to spend all of my time training them?

No. The students will require some training, but usually after a month or two they will be ready to contribute fully (maybe less, depending on what they are doing). But they can contribute something from day 1, and will be able to learn on the job.

Obviously if the role is something very specific that requires years of training then this probably wouldn’t be an option. But the student could contribute in other ways, perhaps towards a part of the process.

Though it needs to be something meaningful; for example, if they are just making cuppas and filing papers then it’s not fair on them (and a waste of their talent).

They will, though, require ongoing support and someone to report to on a daily basis.

How does it work?

I identify which courses at which universities offer appropriate degrees. If you have a specialist area that you deal in, or if there is a niche focus in the role, there is a chance that no degrees will cover it. If so, I would identify the closest degree.

Then, using various methods, I source a pool of candidates. Some may not be studying locally, and are looking to come home for work; something that is particularly useful with a view to a talent pipeline.

I speak with them about their skills, what motivates them, and their future plans. All the while assessing interest and aptitude.

Then I would send you a shortlist of the best 5 or 6 to interview.

What industry areas are covered?

All sorts. Including Engineering, Finance, Business, HR, IT, Marketing, Business, HR, Analysis, etc, etc. Plus many specialist areas. If you are not sure, please get in contact.

Case study

One of the employers I work with set up a sandwich placement scheme 2 years ago. It’s been going very well. They still take on graduates, but the placements cover a short-term need, and also generate a talent pipeline.

The students effectively do a job for a year; they learn a lot, and it significantly increases their chances of securing a good graduate job when the time comes.

Last week they had interviews for 3 different sandwich placements. The plan was to take on a total of 3 students. But they liked the ones they saw so much that they ended up taking on 7. And one of these was for a new position that they created for a specific student.

When speaking with one of the students, it became apparent that he was an ideal solution to an area they needed help with (related to projects and contracts). They had been mulling over what to do, and  they created something for him.

One of the other line managers was looking to take on a CAD designer.  After speaking with the students, he liked them all. They have a lot of work on, so he decided to give another 3 the chance to gain some experience. In his words ‘ these are bright enthusiastic talented people, we’d like to give them a chance’.

I hope this blog has been if interest. If you have any comments or would like to discuss anything in more depth please let me know. You can read more content related to the SME graduate employment market here

Matthew Parry,
Director. SME Graduate Employment

If you would like to find out more about the services I offer please contact me by: Email: matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk Telephone: 0370 774 9500

SME Graduate employment is a specialist graduate recruitment agency. Covering permanent roles, fixed-term contracts, student / undergraduate and graduate internships, and sandwich placements. All areas of the UK, and most industries and job types.