Dream Placement is a unique Cumbrian initiative that brings together bright, motivated young students aged 16-18 with some of the most forward-looking and successful businesses in the county. It is a leadership development programme that for some young people will result in a week’s Dream Placement in industry. Some of the inspiring alumni share their experience here.
Emily Hagan – Dream Placement Alumni 2018-2019
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.” That’s how Emily Hagan sums up her experience of Dream Placement.
Aged 17 and in year 13 at the Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton, Emily already had her sights set on a Sellafield apprenticeship in project management – like the 200 other young people who also applied for the role. But Emily is absolutely certain that Dream Placement gave her an edge when it came to the application process.
Now she is in the first year of her 4-year project management apprenticeship which will lead to a degree and a highly sought-after professional qualification, while having the time of her life.
Emily says: “I love what I am doing and I have already learned so much but it was Dream Placement which gave me the boost I needed to get here.”
The application process itself gave her vital skills in how to present her application and herself to prospective employers. Emily actually gained a week’s placement in 2019 with Direct Rail Services learning about their style of leadership and found huge value in meetings with managing director Debbie Francis who took time out from her busy schedule to talk to Emily and her fellow placement not just about what DRS had to offer, but about their own career aspirations.
Emily explains: “I learned so much during the Dream Placement process about the career opportunities in Cumbria and about the workplace environment, things that school simply can’t teach us. It gave me new skills and a huge confidence boost, as well as bringing me into contact with people from so many different businesses.
“For example, someone I now work for within Sellafield was in the audience when I did a presentation at the 2019 Dream Placement celebration event, and he remembered me when I went for the interview. That sort of exposure and experience is invaluable, and it has helped me to secure the career I love right here in Cumbria.”
‘I want to help other young people develop the qualities that will take them forward’
Tom, now aged 20, is a Dream Placement ambassador having completed a placement with James Fisher Nuclear in 2017. He went on to become an apprentice design engineer with the company in 2018 after leaving the sixth form at St Benedict’s School, but is now studying international business law at Manchester Metropolitan University. However, his driving ambition is to pursue a career in politics.
Tom says: “I have always been interested in politics and the way that impacts on the nuclear industry in Cumbria. Dream Placement was a terrific experience and I really enjoyed working at James Fisher Nuclear but I realised that wasn’t the career I wanted.
However, that year in industry has given me a solid base, and some financial security. I have also had placements with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Jamie Reed at Sellafield Ltd. Dream Placement and my time in the St Benedict’s sixth form was a great grounding for me – creating the emotional maturity to approach adults on equal terms and be taken seriously. That’s one of the reasons why I am supporting Dream Placement and the Cumbria Future Leaders Forum – to help other young people to develop the important qualities that will take them forward.”
‘There are a lot of opportunities within Cumbria which you are not aware of when you are at school.’
A Dream Placement with Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust proved a turning point for Keswick School sixth former Amy Scott and opened the door to becoming a human resources advisor at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – the dedicated police force which protects UK nuclear installations.
Taking part in Dream Placement in 2016 proved an eye-opener in terms of the breadth of opportunities that existed in the county. Following a week-long placement Amy secured an apprenticeship in the Trust’s human resources team.
Two years down the line Amy had completed her apprenticeship and looked around at other options. She explains: “I loved working within the NHS but there are a lot of opportunities within Cumbria which you are not aware of when you are at school. Simply being in a workforce expands your horizons, and I found a perfect fit in my current role.
Now 20-years-old Amy is hugely enjoying her work – still living in Workington but travelling across Scotland and the north of England.
“I have a job where I work with lots of different people, I get new challenges on a day by day basis, and I get to travel around the country but still have my roots in Cumbria. The exciting thing is that I know my career will continue to develop in the future.”
‘The more people you meet the more options you discover, and the more doors that open to you.’
Nikki from Cockermouth School took part in Dream Placement in 2019 and secured a placement with Mott Macdonald Now aged 17 she is planning to take a gap year when she finishes her sixth form studies in 2020 before going onto university to study civil and structural engineering.
Nikki says: “The Dream Placement experience gave me a huge amount of confidence, so now I can walk into a room of strangers and strike up a conversation without feeling in any way awkward or out of my depth. The more people you meet the more options you discover, and the more doors that open to you. I secured work experience with Mott Macdonald and other companies following Dream Placement, and I want to travel next year after finishing school but I will keep in touch with the companies I have spent time with.”
‘You can’t make those choices without knowledge and experience.’
Ella Batey from Nelson Tomlinson School Sixth Form has applied for a degree apprenticeship with Story Homes, and hopes her Dream Placement experience with Story Contracting last year will work in her favour.
Ella explains: “My week-long placement with Story opened my eyes to the huge variety of roles available within the organisation, which is a major employer in Cumbria and also operates in other locations across the north of England. I had been set on a career in finance but I have realised that is not the route I want to take. Making choices is not just about deciding what you want to do, but also what you don’t want to do, and you can’t make those choices without knowledge and experience. Since Dream Placement I have completed work experience in Liverpool, Carlisle and Chester, but it was Dream Placement that gave me the confidence to reach out to those companies.”
You can hear more from Ella in our Showcase Video which gives more insight into Dream Placement here.
I remember vividly back in 2012 when I was looking at the Dream Placement leaflet that was in my school reception, I logged on to the CfLP website, clicked the link not realising from this exact moment the door opened to what is an absolute dream career for me. The Year prior I was awarded St Benedict’s Engineer of the Year which was something I was incredibly proud of, I knew Engineering was a subject I enjoyed and realised from a very early age it was a career I wanted to choose especially in west Cumbria with so many different opportunities.
Filling in the application for Dream Placement was simple, I just listed all the things I was passionate about and wrote about my career aspirations. I remember getting the note to say my application had reached and passed the selection stage where the invite to attend the first selection grouping at Energus arrived in the post and then the fear that came over me knowing that I was going to be put up against many of my peer group. I had never attended such an event and to be honest I just wasn’t expecting the enthusiasm and engagement that those that attended gave. To witness so many senior business executives and leading businesses that I had only heard of in the same place was just awe inspiring. I remember the short interview, I was so nervous but yet the nerves soon disappeared and adrenalin took over, I think back and although the interview was only a approx. 30 minutes long It felt like only a few seconds.
Then out of the blue I was told the NNL (National Nuclear Laboratory) wanted me and offered a lucrative 5-day work placement, I had never initially heard of the NNL but realised quickly that they were a major Nuclear player and very much alive and kicking in West Cumbria, I literally had to pinch myself, what an absolute brilliant opportunity at such a young age.