This is the first time we've offered a placement to a psychology student. Some psychologists finish their degree with all of the clinical knowledge but little by way of practical skills, so we saw the placement as an opportunity to give someone the skills to go on to become a clinical psychologist."
You can have all of the qualifications under the sun, but if you don't have the experience to put it into a practical setting then the qualifications mean very little.
Our placement student learned a lot of different skills during her time with us. She gained a heightened awareness of the group of people we work with and an understanding that autism affects everyone in different ways. She also developed better communication skills, an understanding that communication isn't just verbal and behaviour plays a significant role – particularly with people who are non-verbal or pre-verbal."
Placements help build a student's confidence and awareness. Our placement student had very little experience of people with learning difficulties when she joined us so it was a very brave placement for her to undertake, but she grew in confidence and became very comfortable working with people with autism.
A placement is definitely a good way for a student to improve their employability. It gives them many more layers to their skillset and experience, and allows them to see first-hand what good practice and bad practice look like. Sadly, during her placement Chandni saw some bad practice but she did the right thing and reported it, which was very empowering for her.
We provide team support for our placement student. Teamwork has to be the essence of the way we work, as consistency and continuity are really key to the people we work with. The whole team mentor and support the placement student as we have to make sure that we're all responding to situations in the same way so service users don't go looking for the person who is going to give them the answer that they want.
Chandni came to us with little experience and she was lacking in confidence, but now her communications and understanding of autism have improved and she is able to work with more people, stand up for herself and offer consistent boundaries. These are all things which she couldn't do when she joined us.
The length of the placement was good because it allowed her to grow and develop at her own speed. She didn't need to be thrown in at the deep end so could grow into the role and develop an understanding of our client group. At the beginning we had to protect her from challenging users, but she is now much more confident working with people.
If the right student came along we would definitely offer them a placement. It has to be a meaningful placement, they have to want to work in this environment or in clinical psychology, but if they do then it is very valuable as they develop a great understanding of what work will be like after they graduate.
We would definitely employ someone who had completed a placement year. They have got more of a proven record and have gone out of their way to get those skills. We might also offer positions to students who have worked with us on placement because we know that they have the practical skills we need.