Every student will tell you achieving placements during their university years is one of the toughest tasks. The opportunities are limited, and the competition is high.
The catch 22 is, many companies want to see work experience on your CV to gain a placement. However, when you’ve gone straight from A Levels to University and are studying hard, gaining that advantage is challenging.
What you really need is someone to give you a helping hand and guidance. Someone who has experience of your industry who can point you in the right direction and may even know a company who is willing to give you that vital step up the career ladder.
Building Birmingham Scholarships
And this is where the Birmingham Building Scholarships (BBS) come into play. By teaming up with companies in the construction and built environment to sponsor, train and mentor students aged 16-24, they can help an individual stand out on their CV and get those all-important job offers.
Since 2019 IM Properties have sponsored 10 BBS students, with the next cohort of 5 students due to start imminently. Several of the IMP team and their supply chain are mentoring students too. This is part of the company’s commitment to an extensive social value programme aligned to its new Peddimore industrial and logistics scheme in Birmingham, alongside an ambition to engage more with education opportunities for young people.
Hasan Khanani is in his final year at the University of Birmingham, studying a BA in Mechanical Engineering. Through BBS and mentoring by IM Properties’ Head of Marketing, Lyndsey Thomas, he was able to gain a two-week placement with consulting engineering company, MBA.
Hasan tells us his story.
Being part of BBS and working with Lyndsey has definitely helped. I’d tried in my first and second year at university to get placements and got nothing. I knew that when I came to apply for jobs, having some experience could make all the difference.
Lyndsey asked me what my ambitions and goals were so she could tailor her help. She worked with Kerry, the Social Value Manager at IM Properties to gain me a placement with a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy, MBA. There was an issue though. MBA are in Milton Keynes, and I had no way of being able to find accommodation and live. Driving lessons had wiped me out.
Above and beyond
Fortunately, Lyndsey helped me to apply for a bursary from the uni to help cover some of my costs, however it still wasn’t enough to cover all my expenses and that’s where IM Properties stepped in. They helped me do a budget for the remaining costs and covered those for me. I can’t thank them enough for that.
MBA are a relatively small company, and I was a bit apprehensive about how much I’d get from the opportunity and if I’d fit in with the team. I thought what if they don’t like me?
I needn’t have worried, though. In fact, I’d go as far to say, that I gained much more than if I’d gone to one of the established larger organisations. You hear these stories about people just making the tea and coffee and doing the filing.
MBA gave me a full view of their operation from its initial consultation with clients to provision of innovative mechanical, and electrical solutions. I had the opportunity to sit with everyone from the CAD to the Design team, including the director, who made himself available if I needed any advice or recommendations.
Stand out experience
The placement proved to be an invaluable experience which allowed me to gain industry knowledge, expand my network, diversify my skillset and helped me develop personally and professionally.
I thought, the more I put in, the more I will get out and I tried to be enthusiastic and shine as much as possible. I knew this two-week placement would be the deal breaker when applying for jobs.
Ultimately, I want to get into an engineering consultancy and hopefully travel all over the world. I’d like to feel proud of the work I’ve done and be able to see it from pre-contract to finished project stage.
MBA has changed my attitude to the size of the company I might target post degree. Progression can be slow in large organisations, however in smaller ones, I can see you get the chance to be noticed more and perhaps learn quicker. I’ve applied to two smaller firms in Birmingham. Fingers crossed; I get an opportunity.
Zekariye Yusuf has been on the BBS scheme and mentored throughout his three years at Coventry University by Mike Brownstone, a director from one of IM Properties’ valued supply chain companies, Resound Acoustics. Zekariye says his mentoring placement has been key to his career progress and he doesn’t know how he would have applied for jobs otherwise. He’s hoping to become a Chartered Surveyor after his degree and was lucky enough to get a three-week work placement with independent global construction and property consultancy, RLB in Birmingham.
Zekariye tells us his story.
I 100 per cent had a good experience. Working at RLB, I got to find out about cost management, contract administration and to gain an insight into the behind-the-scenes office work, doing floor calcs and understanding how to use their software. I feel I now have an idea of what’s to come as a QS and have more of a connection with the industry I’m looking to get into. Meeting their existing graduates was also useful to pick their brains and network, and just be able to ask questions as I apply for jobs.
Guidance & Opportunities
It would have been a lot harder if I’d not been on the BBS scheme. I spoke to a couple of my uni friends, and they were really struggling to find placements. COVID has made it so much more difficult as companies are offering less places. Mike has helped a lot, finding me the opportunity with RLB, and checking in with me regularly and meeting every semester to catch up on my progress and see where else he could support me.
In the future, I’d love to work on residential schemes. It’s going to take me two to three years to become a QS and then I want to build as much experience as I can, before perhaps starting my own property company. The BBS scheme and IM Properties have given me the CV boost I needed.
Zekariye has also now been connected with IM Properties’ housebuilding division, Spitfire Homes to apply for upcoming graduate opportunities.