OF more than 130 graduates who have taken work placements with Shetland Islands Council over the past decade, a third have gone on to full time employment with the authority.
This week the council celebrated the tenth anniversary of its graduate placement scheme, with a series of presentations from some of the young people that have taken part.
The graduates are placed in a range of council departments for 12 months and work on a range of projects.
Any notion that a “graduate placement” is a euphemism for chief filer and tea maker was swiftly brushed aside as the participants gave serious, thought-provoking and at times challenging outlines of their work.
Calab Marwick and Chris Silver worked with Learning School at the Anderson High School, which saw them lead an international group of students around the world to explore how personal and social development can be linked to learning in schools.
Chris explained how it had been “an incredibly unique and at times intense experience” that allowed them to bring innovative ideas back to Shetland.
Their research had real life applications and caused some excitement amongst the assembled audience, with councillor Jonathan Wills keen to explore how their findings might be incorporated into plans for the new Anderson High School.
Laura Fiske worked with planning whilst Marianne Gordon was placed within the schools service. Both played an active role in two major SIC consultations, the Main Issues report and the Blueprint For Education which will inform major decisions around planning and education in Shetland.
“It gave me the opportunity to put some of the planning theory I learnt at university into practice and I’ve been able to bring some new ideas to the planning team,” said Laura
Both presentations stimulated wider discussions about the role of schools within communities, such as whether a school is there solely to educate children or whether it has a wider, central role in a sustainable community - a very relevant and contentious question in the current political climate.
Art graduate Chloe Garrick worked in the schools service with Creative Links staff to develop arts and creativity within education. She delivered workshops in schools across Shetland and looked at how the arts link to wider creative activities and enterprise.
Creative Links officer Noelle Henderson was keen that Chloe had the freedom to develop her own research and projects. “That’s what is great about the scheme, the graduates bring refreshing new ideas that lead you in a different direction,” she said.
Training and skills coordinator Doreen Thomason, who oversaw the placement scheme, said: “These graduates are our future. There have been 132 people over the 10 years. A third of them gained full time employment in the council. It’s such a success story.”
The presentation took place on the same day the Association of Graduate Recruiters released figures showing that that the number of applications for each graduate job had soared from 48 last year to 70 in 2010.
In the face of such stiff competition the opportunity that these graduates have of gaining real-life experience seems all the more relevant. “The scheme gives them an advantage,” explained Doreen.
The benefits of the scheme are not confined to the graduates themselves. The belief that they introduce new, and at times challenging, ideas to organisations such as the council was echoed throughout the audience. There was talk of reflection, challenging hierarchies and creative thinking.
Depute chief executive Hazel Sutherland was keen to explore how some of their findings could be incorporated into the working processes of the SIC as a whole.
“They bring fresh ideas. I think we should listen to them” she said.