“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Valleys Steps and the work experience module. In the beginning I was very apprehensive and worried about undertaking a placement, however, I am very grateful to have had the experience as it is a very valuable opportunity that will benefit me in the future. I feel confident about entering the world of work after university and believe the work experience module is a crucial element of completing a degree”.
Why did you choose this placement and how did you find the opportunity?
I chose Valleys Steps as it is a charitable organisation which focusses on promoting the improvement of well-being which helps ease the strains of common psychological difficulties including stress, low mood, and anxiety. I found that Valleys Steps’ purpose resonated with me as something very important and crucial to the community. I found the opportunity via USW’s careers page which was very useful in helping me find a placement that I was interested in.
Was this placement virtual or physical or a bit of both?
Due to the pandemic most of the placement consisted of online webinars which were held daily during the week. However, towards the end of my allocated hours we began discussing a return to a physical work sphere where we would host wellbeing workshops within the community in an outdoor setting.
What did you find most valuable about the work you undertook?
I found that the most valuable aspect of the work I undertook was the opportunity to work within a professional sector with knowledgeable specialists within the wellbeing field. The opportunity to engage with professionals through online webinars, meetings and workshops helped me build confidence within a professional setting and gain insight into what my future holds. This in turn has alleviated the anxiety I felt towards joining the workplace after university.
What new skills and knowledge did you gain?
During my placement I was given Digital Storytelling training at Valleys Steps. This is a relatively new mindfulness well-being tool utilised to help tell a story or recap memories in a photographic format and is highly beneficial for those struggling with mental health issues. Learning this new and emerging skill will allow me to use it to my advantage when seeking a job within the care sector in the future. I may have the opportunity to educate others on how to do Digital Storytelling as there is a gap in the market for this. The tool infuses ‘language learning skills, ICT, literacy skills, inventive thinking and problem-solving skills’ which allows for the fostering of skills in the workplace (Thang and Mahmud 2017). Not only did I learn a new skill, but it also simultaneously allowed me to improve existing skills.
I also increased my knowledge on the topic of personal wellbeing. Through helping distribute resources to members of the community attending wellbeing sessions I managed to adopt the same strategies for managing and looking after my own mental wellbeing. This has been highly beneficial for me during the placement and throughout my second year at university.
How will this placement help with your career?
After undertaking my work experience at Valleys Steps, I have discovered that I am very interested in pursuing a career in the mental health sector. Before volunteering I was uncertain on what path I would like to take in the future and did not have a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. It has been very rewarding to discover my interest in this sector through undertaking my work experience and now I have found a path I would like to pursue.
The resources used at Valleys Steps were extremely helpful to other students who have been struggling this academic year. Ensuring that students have access to a good wellbeing support system is crucial and I have discovered that working with students in the future is something I would be interested in, particularly as I find it very relatable.
My current goals and plans for the future consist of continuing to volunteer at Valleys Steps in order to gain as much experience as possible whilst finishing my degree. I believe this will benefit me tremendously.
What would you do differently if you had to complete the placement module again?
If I had to complete the module again, I would definitely begin my placement search earlier on within the academic year as before I found Valleys Steps, I struggled to secure a placement that I was interested in. My advice to future student cohorts would be to begin searching early so you don’t miss any opportunities that may interest you. I was lucky with my placement however there are more options to consider the earlier you begin searching.
Please comment on the support you received from the University and/or your placement organisation?
I cannot fault the support I received from the university. It was very helpful and informative helping me secure a placement and create a strong CV profile that I can continue to utilise in the future. Valleys Steps was also excellent in providing support to me during the work experience module, especially as I was on the student side of the organisation. They were very helpful and supportive of my studies alongside my placement responsibilities.