DCU double the number of placements on its Access to the Workplace Programme

Aoife O'Brien

DCU will double the number of summer work placements on offer to students from disadvantaged backgrounds through its Access to the Workplace Programme in 2020.

Results from an evaluation of the programme’s pilot in 2019 show that 39 participating companies provided 50 DCU Access students with summer work placements.

This amounted to 440 weeks of quality work experience in a professional environment and collective earnings of €180,000.

94 per cent of the students who participated in the pilot said they would have been unable to achieve an equivalent placement through their own networks.

The Access to the Workplace pilot programme also raised an additional €395,000 to support the provision of scholarships for DCU Access students, with all 39 partner companies making a philanthropic contribution to DCU Educational Trust’s Access Scholarship Programme. 

DCU runs Ireland’s largest university access programme, which currently supports 1,158 students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the university. 

Research released by the Higher Education Authority in 2019 revealed that, when all other factors are equal after graduation, students from disadvantaged areas continue to earn less than students from more affluent areas. Access to the Workplace is an additional support to address this by improving the employability and future career prospects of Access students.  

Head of DCU’s Access Service, Cathy McLoughlin, spoke at the launch on the Access to the Workplace Programme for 2020 in DCU said, “In our experience, Access students tend to lack the familial and professional networks that can help to secure paid summer work placements of relevance to their degree. With financial pressure to save for the upcoming academic year, Access students have no choice but to opt for paid manual or service industry employment over unpaid professional summer internships,” she said.

“This can later put them at a disadvantage when competing for the best INTRA work placements during their degree or for graduate programmes against peers with professional work experience,” she continued.

Third-year Multimedia student, Laura Scanlon who is part of the Access programme said, “My degree in Multimedia doesn’t include an internship so summer is a critical time for me to gain experience and develop my CV. I had looked into summer internships but they were mostly unpaid and this just wasn’t an option for me. Through my Access to the Workplace placement, I had paid summer employment with a creative print and signage company, Neogen, and was able to gain valuable experience working on graphic design projects that have helped me to build my portfolio.”

Aoife O’Brien

Image Credit: DCU