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QM Projects – the work experience scheme that’s changing lives in the East End

Thursday 25 October 2012

In January 2012, the QM Careers & Enterprise Centre launched QM Projects, a unique local work experience scheme that places Queen Mary students into projects in local charities.

Lindsey Shirah, Projects Coordinator, says “The aim is to give the student an opportunity to develop and showcase skills – such as leadership, influencing, problem-solving and initiative – whilst filling a skills gap in a local charity.” At the end of their project, the student will ideally be able to give a clear, positive outcome of their achievement on their CV, all the while expanding the college’s public engagement in the East London community.

Some of the interesting roles already taken on by students, who work as Project Leaders at the charities, include assisting with social media, marketing, event planning, government lobbying campaigns, data analysis and researching and writing funding proposals. Host charities have included the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, Bethnal Green Academy, Alcohol Concern, Small Charities Coalition, Student Voice,, Hackney Shares, Bow Arts, Headway East London, Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, the Ragged School Museum, and the Children’s Heart Federation.

Each project lasts three months, but is organised to take up just one day a week of the student’s time. QM Careers supports both the student and the charity throughout the process, by advertising projects, shortlisting candidates, coordinating a graduate-level interview, and paying the student’s travel expenses. Project Leaders can also take part in a ‘skills debrief’ session with a Careers Consultant after their project so that they can update their CV with their new experience and get any further careers advice they may need.

Emily Huns, Head of QM Careers, says "To compete in the job market, students need to be able to showcase graduate level skills such as problem-solving and leadership, and be able to prove the impact of these skills through a tangible outcome - the positive change they have made in an organisation. The new QM Projects Scheme has generated a whole new range of placements which offer students the chance to do exactly that, whilst filling a resource gap in East End charities. Charities have been so impressed by the commitment and ability of Queen Mary's students that they are recommending the scheme to others. Demand for a QM Project Leader is soaring."

Rachel Read completed a project as a Special Education Needs Project Leader at the Ragged School Museum in Mile End. Having graduated in 2012, she has since taken on a job at Acorn Park School, a specialist Autism School, as a Teaching Assistant. Rachel says the research experience in Special Education Needs (SEN) that she gained through QM Projects played an important part in her securing her job at Acorn Park School: “I believe that by doing research for a SEN program I did significantly enhance my chances of getting the position. ”

As well as offering students the chance to improve their CV, many find the scheme attractive because of the opportunity to contribute to the work of a local charity. Joe Barlow is in his final year at Queen Mary and completed a project as a Passport to Employability Project Leader at Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership. Joe says: “The main aspect of QM Projects which appealed to me was the opportunity to work for a local charity about an issue I feel particularly passionate about.”

Im Rahman managed Joe at Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership. He said: “Joe has worked very well during the internship at Tower Hamlets Education Business partnership. The whole experience has been excellent and we will recommend this scheme to all employers.”

21 charities have taken part in QM Projects, with new projects coming up all the time. Students can get involved in the scheme and receive alerts about new projects by emailing Lindsey at l.shirah@qmul.ac.uk, with their name, department and year.

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