MUHAMMAD Mota is gaining much from his work placement.

Attached to the digital team at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Shipley, he is learning a great deal.

“I am taking on real responsibility within the Secure Data Exchange Service team,” says the University of Bradford student. “I work as a project support officer supporting the project owner and manager, to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Regular meetings with key stakeholders are necessary to making sure they are pleased with the project’s direction.”

He adds “Making sure that the project is financially stable and budgeting for it is also part of the job that I touch upon.”

The accountancy and finance student’s 12-month placement is one of a growing number linked to the university’s School of Management, where numbers increased to 35 - its highest level for five years.

Work placements are of vital importance to institutes of further education. They can help students not only gain valuable experience of the working world and prepare them for their future careers, but also give them the life skills to handle whatever route they may take.

They also forge links between the institutions and employers both locally and nationally.

The importance of placements saw a newly-created role of director of work placements and internships at the School of Management, filled by Dr Jyoti Mishra.

“Placements are becoming more and more important,” she says. “Nowadays employers look for more than exam results - they prefer students with work experience. They are looking for human to human skills.”

The links forged between the institutions and businesses, most of them local, are of great benefit. “It is a win-win situation for three parties - the students, the university and the employees.”

Students are paid between £12,000 and £24,000 for their placement year, and some go on to find permanent employment with their host firms.

“The students grow in confidence too,” says Jyoti, who visits the students during their placements, in companies ranging from financial services to vehicle manufacture, the NHS, the construction industry and art dealerships.

Dean of the School of Management Professor Zahir Irani, says: “Many placement companies are seeing the offering of a placement as a means to recruit potential students - a very long interview time and process that helps everyone manage their risk.

“It also allows companies to see the student develop over time. The growth of placement numbers is also at the centre of our business engagement strategy as we reach out to local and national companies. We have a very diverse student population forming an excellent source of talented and versatile placement and graduate students.”

He adds: “We have also recently appointed two entrepreneurs in residence who are practitioners to help students with start-up ideas or those seeking a corporate career. Bradford is such a great place to set up a business. We are seeing more students wanting to learn and discover how to set up a micro business - we are responding to this and serving our community in many ways.”

Selamawit Berhane is on placement with Yorkshire Water in a role focusing on data sets in business support functions.

“The role exposes me to the working environment, being assigned tasks and interacting and collaborating with colleagues from different departments,” she says. “It gives me invaluable insight on available roles. This is of great benefit as it shows me where my interests lie and what my strengths are. It will help to guide my career path.”

Adds Muhammad Mota: “Due to the competitive graduate job market, I understand that having a placement year will help me develop employability skills that employers need, but also provide me with some professional work experience to support future job applications. This placement will help me to stand out from the other applicants and gain relevant professional experience.

“The careers service at university has played a really big role in helping me secure this placement. I was told that a placement year would help me secure a job in the future, but I never really believed that it would. Having been in a working environment for few months, my view has completely changed. I have expanded my skills set and feel a lot more confident in what I do. This placement has really opened my mind to the opportunities.

“I have learned how to become a better team player, my communication skills have vastly improved and I absorb new opportunities and experiences every day thanks to the help I get from my colleagues. With the continuous help of the university and the experiences I have gained at HMRC, I now feel confident applying for graduate jobs. I have many skills that employers ask for and professional experience to back them up with.”