Remote placement scheme gives students hands-on experience from home

08/02/2021

Many students may be missing the hands-on industry experience a placement provides, during the pandemic. But four Sheffield undergraduates found that working from home worked out for their chosen profession, after applying for a position at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) in 2020.

With the promise of a 12-month training plan to help them develop specific skills and knowledge that would equip them for a professional career in IT, four undergraduates started SYPTE’s IT Student Placement scheme last July and, even though they’ve been working remotely, they haven’t lacked in gaining  experience of their chosen profession.

“Since the scheme started three years ago, the placements have helped us deliver key projects in IT Operations and IT Development at SYPTE, including a custom CMS driven website, development and integration of a ChatBot and the collection of meaningful analytics data from these websites”, says Dave Bradwell, SYPTE’s IT Systems Development Manager.

“Our students are also involved in the migration of our CRM systems and contribute to the best practices in IT. They are valuable members of the team and we aim to grow their knowledge across a broad range of technologies during their time with us.”

“The students have all made a big contribution, they have seamlessly slotted into the team and really got to grips with dealing with customer IT requests and engaging with the teams”, agrees Nick Brailsford, IT Operations Manager.

This integration within the team and hands-on experience has exceeded the students’ expectations.  “From the start I was surprised at how much responsibility I was given. My team had total trust in my ability which allowed me to get on with projects such as the Chatbot for Travel South Yorkshire website”, says Nathan Fell, one of the selected placements. “Working from home has provided challenges, but as a team we meet online every day to discuss our workload and any problems we are facing, which has helped greatly through these difficult times”.

Nathan has been working closely with Ben Cousins, another IT Student Placement, on two projects: the ChatBot and setting up Google Analytics for Travel South Yorkshire.com.

 “Since joining SYPTE’s scheme my coding skills have improved as I better understand object-oriented programming. By the time I return to my final year at University I will have experience working with more programming languages and a better understanding of the code behind websites such as Travel South Yorkshire”, says Ben.

The scheme has also surprised student, Max Allen. “I expected to be providing IT support to customers in the organisation as well as preparing new equipment and devices. I’ve done a lot of that, but I also worked on the networking side of things, like server patching, auditing and decommissioning servers, which will help me in my future career”.

SYPTE’s IT System’s Developer Lucia Long, who works directly with the students, explains how the scheme can have an impact: “In a practical sense, the program brings extra help which we always need and appreciate but it is much more than that. The students don’t bring just fresh minds and a fresh pair of eyes but also infectious enthusiasm and an ability to look at things from a different perspective.

“This reminds us just how exciting and precious it is to be able to create systems which help our colleagues and customers. They also bring hope and show us how much potential this new generation of IT professionals has”, she says.

“Joining SYPTE on an IT operation placement has opened up so many doors, it made me learn new parts of the computing world that I have never worked with before”, says IT student Kayden Marshall. “You see what you learn at university but in a practical way.  I am very glad I applied for this role, it gave me experience of what my career could be like after university.”

SYPTE is currently recruiting new students for its 2021/22 twelve-month IT Placement scheme – applications close on Wednesday 24 February at 9:00 am. Interviews will be held in March for students to start working in July. Applications can be made online at sypte.co.uk.