A Student Placement with Start360

Start360 have been carrying on working the whole way through COVID-19, just as universities and other establishments have been too. This has resulted in students still needing placements. However, as a lot of places have had to reduce their staffing numbers and working hours these placements have been more difficult to come by.

That’s why, me, Alex, as a first year Community Youth Work student from Ulster University, am so privileged to have been given the opportunity to come on placement with the Futures team at Start360. Placement within the Community Youth Work degree is one of the most vital parts. It is where all the studying and theories get put to the test and every day is a learning day. Alongside this I attend a taught module, so time management skills are key.

Before I started placement at the end of January, I had no idea what to expect. How was online working going to work? What would the groups be like to work with? What were other staff going to be like? How would I juggle everything? However, after meeting Amy (Futures Assistant Manager) for the first time and instantly seeing the support I was going to receive, my mind was put at rest.

My first week was comprised of a lot of learning and getting set up - from getting my Start360 email, getting the zoom links for each different group and meeting the staff and mentors for those groups. There was also a meeting with Ann-Marie (Start360 Chief Executive), hearing about where the organisation has come from and where it is going. This undoubtedly gave me an abundance of motivation to give my all and more - to get the most out of this placement as possible.

Over the past 10 weeks I have been privileged to have been able to work with three schools groups, mentor three participants, assist with recruitment for a new online group and the facilitation for the first week of that, write evaluations and lead team meetings. All of these aspects of youth work have been completely new to me, even though I have been working as a youth worker elsewhere for nearly two years. This experience has already proved invaluable in growing myself as a youth practitioner.

Prior to starting placement Amy and myself had a multitude of conversations about my expectations of placement and in turn what she expected from me. At each given opportunity I had said I wanted to be able to become fully immersed within the organisation and really be thrown in at the deep end. I feel like this expectation was certainly achieved. The communication from everyone within the Futures team was more than I could have ever wished for. This was especially true since it was all online and virtual, with communication being key not only in all aspects of youth work and work in general but also life.

Within my time at Start360 I haven’t just felt like a student, especially a first-year student, I really have felt like one of the team, of the little Futures family. Everyone within Futures is treated as an equal and when I was asked to help one of the team on their Level 2 Youth Work it showed me the team ethic and it really was an example of the goals and mission of Start360.

I genuinely couldn’t have asked for a better placement organisation, a better team or a better placement supervisor. In a time when the country, students, participants and everyone else is struggling, placement at Start360 is one thing that has felt seamless. For that I will always be eternally grateful to the whole Futures team.

To anyone considering a placement at Start360, I can guarantee it will exceed your expectations and goals.

Alex, 1st Year Community Youth Work Student, University of Ulster.

Futures is a partnership between Start360, Belfast Met and NIHE. For more information please click here.