The way you work is going to change….

As Google’s Larry Page and others have said, the amount of jobs available for people is going to decrease as technology advances. New innovations will drive industries forward, but they will also reduce our reliance on people power. Ideas such as driverless cars and drones are becoming a reality, and machines will be used for more and more jobs in the future. Who knows, maybe even pilot-less planes, could become reality one day!

On the face of it, this sounds like bad news for people. However, if governments and businesses are clever, the advance of technology could actually be really positive for people all over the world. It could help accelerate the marketplace to much smarter working practices.

The idea of working five days a week with two day weekends and a few weeks of annual holiday is just something people accept. For some reason, it is considered set in stone by most companies. There is no reason this can’t change. In fact, it would benefit everyone if it did.

With the rise of flexible working – something we fully embrace at Virgin – people already have more options on how, when and where they work. I believe this will progress further in the years to come.

Many people out there would love three day or even four day weekends. There are many people out there who would want to job share, and would love longer holidays. Everyone would welcome more time to spend with their loved ones, more time to get fit and healthy, more time to explore the world.

By working more efficiently, there is no reason why people can’t work less hours and be equally – if not more – effective. People will need to be paid more for working less time, so they can afford more leisure time. That’s going to be a difficult balancing act to get right, but it can be done.

As Larry said: “The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is just not true.” We all need to work smarter, not longer.

What would your ideal working week look like? Share your thoughts below or on social.

More Placement Advice

Work Experience Ideas

Finding work experience can be a tricky business. Short of typing “find me work experience” into Google, where can you look for that elusive work experience placement? Don’t despair just yet! We’ve got a whole range of nifty ideas for students who are short of work experience inspiration. You can also find work experience opportunities and internships right here.

Not only do you need to think about which industry you want to get work experience in, you also need to look for work experience that will help you to develop a set of desirable skills. That might means getting a little bit imaginative. So where can you look?

Established internship & work experience programmes…

Let’s start with the obvious option, shall we? Many large companies now run established and structured work experience and internship programmes. These schemes are great ways of learning more about your industry and picking up relevant work-based skills. You can find a list of internship opportunities here. Work experience with the big players in your industry will look impressive on your CV and may even lead to a graduate job at the company.

You can use our employer A-Z to find out about the large companies in different industries, such as law, banking and business. However, competition for internships and work experience at these companies is tough. A quick, lazy application won’t cut the mustard; you need to treat it like you’re applying for a proper job. That means tailoring your covering letter and CV and allowing yourself plenty of time to fill out any online application forms.

Small & medium-sized companies…

As well as applying for work experience at larger companies, it’s well worth seeking out opportunities at small or medium-sized companies. There is often less competition for places, although work experience opportunities might be less structured than at larger firms.

So how can you find them? The best thing to do is draw up a list of the companies in your area that you’d be interested in working for. You can do this by searching local and national business directories.

Armed with a list of companies, check their websites to see if they offer any work experience opportunities. If they don’t mention anything on their website, then it’s well worth trying a speculative application. Give them a call (don’t be shy!) and ask if they would consider taking someone on for work experience. Find out the name and email address of the person to whom you should send your speculative application. Send it. Simple.

Institutes, trusts & universities…

Work experience is not only something to put on your CV; it’s a unique chance to explore your chosen industry or career interests. Consequently, there’s no harm in looking further afield. It’s not all about working for commercial companies; you might want to think about looking for work experience with institutes, associations, trusts or universities.

This might involve helping out in the laboratory of a research institute, working in the press office of a cultural institute or trust, or completing work experience in the admin office of a university.

Many universities also run work experience programmes in conjunction with others, such as the RISE programme and the Amgen Scholarships programme. Other institutes offer bursaries to help you gain insights into certain careers, such as the Nuffield Undergraduate Research Bursaries.


Another great way for you to gain work experience is through volunteering. You could take part in an international development project, you could volunteer for a national charity, or you could even get involved with a local charity right on your doorstep. If you’re volunteering as a way of gaining experience, it’s important that you go for roles that will help you to develop desirable skills and volunteer for a cause which is in some way related to your career aims.

For example, if you want a career in marketing, then it makes sense to volunteer in the marketing department of a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. If you are looking for a career in law, then what about volunteering for the Citizens Advice Bureau or your local law centre? Further afield, you could volunteer for organisations like Refugee Action, the Innocent Network or StreetLaw. There are plenty of arts, media and business-related charities too.

You could even work on international development or environmental conservation projects. Always be wary when looking for volunteering opportunities abroad; if you choose to volunteer through an organisation, make sure it is a well-respected and established organisation, such as Global Vision International, Cam Vol or Operation Wallacea. Be wary of scams. Some organisations care more about wheedling money out of you, than benefiting a particular cause.

Work experience abroad…

Work experience abroad is another great avenue to explore. Businesses are increasingly international, so work experience abroad is certainly valuable. Some of the employers on our A-Z list offer work experience in their overseas offices, so that could be a great place to start your search. There are various ‘middle man’ companies that can help you to organise work experience and internships abroad. Although, make sure you always check that they are reputable and are known for providing good quality opportunities.

You could even look for work experience with the European Union, the British Council, the World Bank or other similar international organisations. You could also search business directories for the country where you want to do work experience and contact businesses directly.

There truly are endless opportunities for work experience out there, you just have to be proactive and find them!

Placement Advice

Find a Placement

Whether you’re looking for a year-long industrial placement or a summer placement, you’ll need to start applying early. There are a lot of students looking for placements and it’s a scrabble to land yourself one. For many students, finding a placement is their responsibility, but that doesn’t mean help isn’t available. Your university department might have a designated placement officer, or, failing that, the careers service will always be on hand to help. Nonetheless, you have to be pro-active, so put on some motivational tunes, get pumped and delve straight into looking for a placement.

What should be my first step?

Well, first of all, get in contact with your placement officer, university department or university careers service and let them know you’re looking for a placement. Be an early bird and book an appointment early on in the term. After all, your placement officer or careers service will get very busy.

Otherwise, your department or careers service might already have a number of vacancies you can search, or they may have relationships with certain employers that offer placements. Careers services and placement officers have plenty of experience in finding placements so make sure you tap into it!

You should also brave your university’s careers or placement fairs. A careers fair is a great place to speak to the employees of a company face-to-face and you can find out about placement opportunities directly from them. They can give you unique insights in companies, helping you to really tailor your applications.

Where should I look for a placement?

When looking for a placement, the main thing is to keep an open mind. You might have your heart set on working for a particular company, but it’s equally important to land the right role; look at what you’ll be doing, not just the company. Apply for placements that you’re really interested in; conveying that interest and enthusiasm in your application will really make it stand out.

So where should you look for a placement? Well, if you’ve exhausted your own university’s database of placements, see if you can find some placements yourself. The first thing to do is draw up a long list of companies that you want to work for, you might have found these at careers fairs, on-line, or on our graduate employers list. You might want to choose a mixture of large, medium sized and small companies to apply to.

Check to see whether these companies offer placements through their websites. If not, there’s no harm in giving them a call and asking if they might be potentially interested in taking you on. If you go down the speculative application route, send them your CV and a covering letter, expressing why you want to work for their company in particular and what you can offer them. You might also want to utilise any connections you may have, i.e. family, friends, acquaintances or previous companies that you’ve done work for. Let everyone know that you’re looking for a placement.

A word of warning though, before you start searching on your own: if you’re doing a sandwich placement year or industrial placement, you might have to check with the department that the placement you’ve found is suitable and complies with the course requirements.

To find out about the latest placement opportunities, check out our placements job board now!

Perfecting those applications…

You should approach your placement applications as if you’re applying for a graduate job. It’s worth spending more time on fewer applications and really tailoring them to individual companies, rather than churning out generic applications for hundreds of placements. Yes, it can be very time consuming, but it’ll be worth it when you find the right placement. Take the time to suss out what you want to gain from your placement and examine your current skills and experience.

Before applying, you should have worked out what employers are looking for from applicants, and how you can fit the bill. Most will specify in their placement advertisement, but other qualities they might be looking for is students who can work independently and have excellent problem-solving skills. You’ll also need to demonstrate a good understanding of their organisation as well as the industry, so make sure you do your research.

Some companies have online application forms, whilst others might do it the old fashioned way and ask you to send in a covering letter and CV. The golden rule is to tailor your application for every company and make sure you back up your assertions (e.g. “I’m a great problem solver”) with evidence. For advice on how to write a CV, how to write a covering letter and how to complete an online application form, check out our careers advice section. Book an appointment with your careers service and go over your CV and covering letter with them too.

All in all, be prepared to apply to many companies, and expect only a few responses and interview offers. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback when your application is unsuccessful. Many companies won’t give feedback at the application stage, but many will if you reach the interview stage. This can help you find out where you’re going wrong.

Above all, don’t let rejection get you down. It’s competitive to get a placement and the key thing is to stay motivated and keep applying. Doing a placement is well worth the effort. Students who have done a placement are far more likely to land that elusive graduate job. Some people even get their final year at university sponsored by their placement company. How’s that for a perk?

How to get a placement

With modern technology and other tools, it’s never been easier to find a placement. There are literally thousands of placements out there. Here are some top methods of finding these opportunities.

computer workerSearch engines

With the internet you’ve got a massive database of placements in your own room/lap. Go on to Google and type in, for example, “Accountancy Placements” or “Engineering Placements” and you’ll literally have thousands of results for places all around the world. There are even specialised sites…

Specialised websites

Specialised sites such as will do all the hard work for you when searching for a placement. You can narrow down searches to your location or specialised area and it will show a list of available placements matching your criteria. Simple!

University careers service

You probably know this but your university will do anything to help you further with your future career. This is the same with work placements. Go to your careers advisor or anyone who deals with work placements in your university and ask them to help you sort it out. There’s no doubt they’ll have a database of placements and they’ll endeavour to get you on what you’re looking for.

Contacting an organisation

Find the companies contact details from their website or other means and email them. If email doesn’t work, ring them. In fact we recommend ringing them as this will get you connected with them straight away and there’s no delay in waiting for a reply. Try going into their building in person. It shows initiative and confidence and helps you sell yourself more.

Contact several companies at once

Don’t just set your sights on one company. They may take a long time to get back to you whereas others may literally reply within the hour. It’s good to spread things out so you have a better scope and chance of obtaining a placement.

Newspaper, magazines and books

Whilst the majority of our modern life is dominated by technology, there’s nothing wrong with the good old yellow pages, newspaper or magazine. Search through these and find areas related to what you want. You might find placements being advertised in front of your eyes or just a company that interests you. Whatever it is just contact, contact, and contact.

Mums The Word

We couldn’t do it without you…

MTW has a strong ethos about volunteering, we seriously would not have been able to run our shop in the Mall Blackburn or deliver our ‘pop up shops’, sort through the donated textiles do the laundry and attend events.

At MTW we are one big happy family, we listen to our volunteers and we treat each other as we would like to be treated, with respect and understanding. Our latest team member is Lisa, who started with MTW as a volunteer in July 2013 and is now a first year apprentice with MTW studying customer service with Training 2000.

MTW presently have a number of active volunteers who work relentlessly. If you wish to become involved as a volunteer with MTW, please complete the contact form.


About Us:

Two mums one day sat having coffee trying to put the world to rights, that got onto the subject of school uniforms and the ever increasing cost. They came across an idea that had the possibilities to help with the increasing costs and environmental issues at the same time.

Rachel and Caroline decided they would do something about it and began to ask people for their unwanted, out grown, unused school items (pants, shirts, skirts, bags, cardigans, coats).

Demand to donate was so great that MTW was founded in 2011 and the decision was made to put collection baskets (Drop Spots) in any schools, organisations and community buildings that would have them.

In 2013 thanks to the Mall in Blackburn, who believed so much in MTW that they offered us the opportunity to reach out to the wider communities by giving MTW a temporary free retail shop unit with free promotion and advertising, up until January 2014.

We now have our own shop on Darwen Street as of July 2014…


About volunteering

In the news

Read our articles that reflect the latest things happening that affect volunteering.

First-hand experiences

See what helping out is like for real by reading about the ups and downs of volunteering through the eyes of our bloggers.

Watch volunteers in action

Our collection of videos made by different organisations that explain their volunteering opportunities.

AOC Annual Confrence – Birmingham – Volunteers Required

Student participation –

  • Catering

  • Event Management

  • Journalism

  • Hospitality

Student participation

Students are an integral part of the AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition and this year is no exception, bringing students even closer to the heart of the sector. We are delighted to offer a fantastic and unique opportunity for the students of AoC member colleges to gain work experience at our flagship event.

Work experience

Following the successful student engagement programme at last year’s conference, we are delighted to offer students similar real-life work experience at the biggest event of its kind for the further education sector in 2014.

Work experience will be awarded to selected students in the following categories: event management and stewarding, catering, journalism, floristry and casino experience/after party entertainment. Please note that certain categories will require a commitment to the full 3 days.

Eligible students will be required to demonstrate an adequate level of relevant skills and experience in the selected area, together with the maturity and enthusiasm required to assist a group of professional event managers and staff at the ICC, whose aim is to repeat the success of this highly established conference and exhibition.

If you would like us to consider your student nomination, please visit the website for more information and how to apply.

Gala dinner performance

The gala dinner performance, on the evening of Wednesday 19 November, is the social highlight of the conference.  It is a formal event for all conference attendees, including speakers and VIPs.

Last year’s performance was delivered by a solo singer, whilst the previous year’s entertainment was provided by a pianist, but we are open to all proposals. If you would like to see your college perform at a gala dinner then please do submit your application.

If you would like us to consider your student nomination, please visit the website for more information and how to apply.

Closing dates

The closing date for work experience and gala dinner submissions is Friday 25 July 2014. We will be shortlisting and selecting the chosen candidates over the summer period and will inform all entrants in early autumn.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and working with the successful students in Birmingham.

NB.: Student submissions are only open to AoC member colleges.