“You are the future!” These are words I’ve heard consistently throughout my time at school, university and as part of the nucleargraduates scheme. For the first time, during the recent Dream Placement week, I was on the other side and finally able to say the same words to the bright, driven and engaged young students that came through the NDA’s doors.
Dream Placement Scheme
The dream placement scheme this year took on a multitude of talented 16-18 years olds from across Cumbria to encourage learning from the most exciting and forward-looking employers.
Host companies for 2017 ranged from Sellafield Ltd to Story Homes, and GSK to the NHS Cumbria partnership, with a highly diverse group of organisations hosting students.
The Centre for Leadership Performance (CfLP), as organisers, went above and beyond to make sure the students were able to get the most value from their placements. The development day was a great example of this; Steph, my fellow nucleargraduate, and I were able to meet students from across the county as well as personally take part in many of the team building events during the day.
From the outset, we were determined to give Jemima, Maisie and Matthew the best view of the industry that we could, whilst also pushing them into getting the most out of their time here.
We set them a question to answer: “How does the NDA as an organisation act as a successful, influential and effective leader within the industry?”
Finding the answer to this question exposed them to different areas of the business. The students were eager to find out what makes the NDA tick.
An all-star line-up of leaders throughout the NDA kindly gave up time during the week to speak to the students. These insights helped the students not only answer questions for their project, but shaped them as future leaders and gave them the ability to make informed decisions on their careers.
Sellafield, the Beacon Museum and the Paper Bridge Challenge
Dream placement students from Ansaldo-NES, Balfour Beatty and Sellafield joined the NDA students on a fun-filled day of visits, activities and guest-speakers. We started the day with a fascinating tour of the Beacon Museum and a Sellafield bus tour.
After lunch we had an ice-breaker game and a newspaper bridge challenge. The students formed 3 groups each tasked with building a bridge spanning 50cm between tables made of only newspaper and sellotape - aiming to have the bridge hold 5 reams of A4 paper! An outsider “grown-ups” team also competed. It turns out years of experience and a mechanical engineering degree will not help in beating sixth form students at building a newspaper bridge.
By the end of the week Jemima, Maisie and Matthew were able bring together information from all aspects of the business and collate it into a 30-minute presentation.
Within one week they went from understanding very little about the NDA to being able to tell us the pros and cons of some of the methods we employ.
They also succinctly explained the value and place of the NDA within government, a feat I still struggle with 4 months in to my placement, due to the complexity of it all.
I couldn’t help but feel such pride at the end of it all; experiencing the journey, watching the students embrace all that was thrown at them and still somehow remaining engaged, asking relevant questions and consistently grateful to be given the time and patience to learn, I wish them all the luck in their future endeavours.
In their own words
Each student reflected on what they had achieved during their Dream Placement week:
"This placement opened my eyes to the wide variety of jobs that exist. It's allowed me to think about how flexible my career can be. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the world of work, the local industry around Cumbria and the way the government works as a whole." Matthew Wishart
"During the placement I’ve met many interesting, engaging individuals who’ve not only taught me about the NDA itself and how it all works, but also, vital skills and qualities that will help improve my confidence and make me a more well-rounded person.
"I’ve also learnt that lots of people don’t stay in the same job for their whole life and that it’s a really good thing to try out lots of different jobs, as many of the employees at the NDA have taught me that such changes are vital to really help build your character and to shape the way you are. ’’ Maisie Naylor
"I loved every aspect of my Dream Placement, from sitting and taking part in meetings with employees, finding more about the company, to completing our presentations. I have learned information which links in with the content of my Business Studies course i.e. change management and motivational skills and theories, as well as the key skills for leadership." Jemima McKenzie