LIT bucked the national trend and announced that it has increased its student work placement capacity by almost 50 percent during a year when Covid-19 restricted work placements elsewhere.
Work placement is considered an essential part of the practical learning that makes up LIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses, and is a major factor in LIT retaining its record as having the highest rate of full-time employment in any higher education institution outside of Dublin.
This year LIT has facilitated up to 1,500 student placements across all faculties, up from approximately 1,000 the previous academic year.
Strict Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 did require some students to avail of alternative appropriate work placements, with the Covid-19 Vaccination Centre in Limerick proving particularly suitable.
Seamus Hoyne Dean Flexible & Work Based Learning and Director of Industry Engagement said, “Work placement is one of the key elements of practical and work-based learning championed at LIT. Work placement contributes significantly to the student academic experience, cooperation with regional employers, industry, businesses and communities, and it ensures our students are industry ready within their respective fields.
“This has been a particularly challenging year nationally and globally, with the knock-on effects of the global pandemic also impacting the education sector. I am therefore very proud of our staff and students whose dedication, hard work and flexibility ensured that learning outcomes were achieved, and our graduates will be fully trained, educated to the highest standard and work ready again this academic year.”
Among students to take up essential work placements this year were social care work students who assisted with the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine programme at the centres in Limerick Race Course and previously at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Head of Department Applied Social Science, Dr. Carole Glynn confirmed the important role that industry partners contribute to education, particularly in regulated professions. “Our students benefit from our strong industry partnerships, which support their real-world learning in the workplace and their employment opportunities when they graduate. We work closely with national, regional and local partners and look forward to even greater engagement with them in our evolution to becoming a technological university. While the global pandemic has been a very challenging time, especially for students, the Covid-19 restrictions of 2020 and 2021 also offered new placement options to health and social care students at HSE Mass Vaccination Centres, where they assisted with the roll-out of the vaccination programme.”
LIT second year Social Care Work student Emma McComiskey believes that her work placement at the vaccination centre is beneficial to the students and provides practical application for the skills they learnt during the year.
“It is an interesting experience working at the vaccination centre. It is good that we can lend a hand especially during the pandemic. LIT students and the public are therefore benefiting from this.
“There are certain aspects of the work we (the students) particularly benefit from, for example we are learning about GDPR, how to deal with conflict, teamwork and communications skills. These are many of the skills that are essential in the social care setting and they are also essential here, so I do think this placement is beneficial to us,” she said.
Kate Archbold third year Social Care Work student believes she has grown in confidence since taking up her work placement at the vaccination centre.
Speaking from the vaccination centre based in Limerick Racecourse she said, “As a placement I find it very interesting. We are also at an advantage to everyone else as no one else has done their placement in a clinical setting. Here you get to see the inner workings of how it all works and you have to work together as a team otherwise it won’t go as smoothly.”
Shauna Dillon second year Social Care Work student has also seen the benefits to working at the centre, as she learns to deal with people who might be worried or stressed.
“It is a really good place to work. When we came here first I wondered what were we going to get out of this process in terms of a social care experience. I thought all we were going to be doing is showing people to their booths, but it is more than that. It is the little things that happen that help you see that this is going to be a good social care placement. Some people get scared for example and need encouragement and support, others need you to keep an eye on them throughout the process as a form of reassurance, and other people just what to be able to ask questions and have them answered.”