Dublin City University has announced plans to double the number of summer work placements on offer to students from disadvantaged backgrounds through its Access to the Workplace Programme to 100 in 2020.
Results shared today from an evaluation of the programme’s pilot in 2019 show that 39 participating companies provided 50 DCU Access students with 440 weeks of quality work experience in a professional environment and collective earnings of €180,000. 94% of participating students reported they would have been unable to achieve an equivalent placement through their own networks.
The Access to the Workplace pilot programme also raised an additional €395,000 to support the provision of scholarships for DCU Access students, with all 39 partner companies making a philanthropic contribution to DCU Educational Trust’s Access Scholarship Programme.
DCU runs Ireland’s largest university access programme, which currently supports 1,158 students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the university. The programme began in 1989 and works in partnership with educators, government, third sector organisations and the corporate world to increase access to and progression from higher education.
Research released by the Higher Education Authority in 2019 revealed that, when all other factors are equal after graduation, students from disadvantaged areas continue to earn less than students from more affluent areas. Access to the Workplace is an additional support to address this by improving the employability and future career prospects of Access students.
The findings were shared at the launch of the Access to the Workplace Programme for 2020 in DCU today where Cathy McLoughlin, Head of DCU’s Access Service explained the rationale for the programme:
“In our experience, Access students tend to lack the familial and professional networks that can help to secure paid summer work placements of relevance to their degree. With financial pressure to save for the upcoming academic year, Access students have no choice but to opt for paid manual or service industry employment over unpaid professional summer internships. This can later put them at a disadvantage when competing for the best INTRA work placements during their degree or for graduate programmes against peers with professional work experience.”
The independent evaluation of the Access to the Workplace pilot was completed by consultants S3 Solutions in October 2019 and found that both companies and students reported significant benefits due to their participation. Feedback from 22 companies interviewed as part of the evaluation indicated that the programme offered an opportunity to enhance diversity and inclusion in the workplace, to bring fresh perspectives and an opportunity to give staff line management and mentoring responsibilities.
Speaking at the event, Jason Sherlock, Director of Development with DCU Educational Trust stated:
“Our Access to the Workplace partners make a significant contribution to enabling DCU Access students to achieve their full potential through their support for Access scholarships. We are delighted this evaluation has confirmed they have also experienced significant benefits by hosting these summer work placements and that 100% of those interviewed intend to host a placement again next year.”
Attendees also heard from special guest Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, who spoke about the ethical and business case for diversity and inclusion and the relevance of initiatives like Access to the Workplace. Ms O’Leary commented:
“At Vodafone, our ambition is to connect everyone to live a better today and build a better tomorrow. We consistently strive to nurture a culture of inclusion, diversity and equality so that everyone feels like they can bring their whole selves to work. We are so proud to support the hugely important DCU Access to the Workplace Programme by providing work experience through our internship and graduate programmes. At Vodafone, we firmly believe in fostering talent of the future and ensuring that we equip our young people with the necessary skills for the workplace. And this programme has not only given us access to talented young people, but it has helped us on our mission to employ people with diversity of opinion, thought and background.”
The evaluation results also highlighted significant benefits for students, with 72% reporting that the programme had increased their motivation in relation to their degree and career. One such student, Laura Scanlon from Cabra, who is a third year Multimedia student in DCU, described her experience:
"My degree in Multimedia doesn’t include an internship so summer is a critical time for me to gain experience and develop my CV. I had looked into summer internships but they were mostly unpaid and this just wasn’t an option for me. Through my Access to the Workplace placement I had paid summer employment with a creative print and signage company, Neogen, and was able to gain valuable experience working on graphic design projects that have helped me to build my portfolio.”
Companies looking for additional information about the DCU Access to the Workplace Programme or wishing to express an interest in getting involved should visit www.dcu.ie/accesstotheworkplace