Today, DCU hosted a special event in The Helix to mark the start of its award-winning Access to the Workplace Programme for 2022. The programme aims to provide up to 100 professional internships for DCU Access students this summer, with 86 placements confirmed to date. Mirroring trends in the wider economy, the programme is experiencing a significant shift from virtual to hybrid internships this year, with 78% of employers providing hybrid and 22% providing on-site internship formats. This compares to 100% virtual placements in 2021.
DCU Access to the Workplace was launched in 2019 as an additional support to enhance the career prospects and social mobility of DCU Access students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Since 2019, the programme has provided 152 high quality summer internships for DCU Access students, hosted by leading Irish companies who also make a philanthropic contribution to support Access scholarships.
Marking a further return to pre-pandemic normality, participating students and employers met face-to-face in advance of their internships for the first time since 2019 at today’s event, which explored how to make the most of hybrid and on-site internships this year.
Attendees heard from Claire Hellen, HR strategy Specialist with Ibec, who shared advice on hybrid working, and from Dr Yseult Freeney, Professor of Organisational Psychology in DCU Business School who offered insights on the benefits of the hybrid work environment for productivity and well-being. Participating students and companies also learnt from the experiences of Damien Keneghan, Associate Director at Jacobs and Pietre O’Sullivan, a DCU Access student who completed an Access to the Workplace internship with Jacobs in 2021.
Speaking at today’s event, Cathy McLoughlin, Head of DCU’s Access Service told attendees:
“We know from Higher Education Authority research that even when all other factors are equal after graduation, students from disadvantaged areas continue to earn less than students from more affluent areas. Now in its fourth year, we can see that Access to the Workplace is a vital support to level the playing field for our students. Two independent evaluations have shown that it increases work readiness, with 87% of students stating that it increases their social and cultural capital to be equivalent with more socially advantaged peers.”
Addressing the programme’s partner companies, Jason Sherlock, Director of Development with DCU Educational Trust said:
“We are extremely grateful to our partner companies who will offer life-changing internship opportunities for DCU Access students this summer. Since we launched the programme in 2019, our partners have not only provided professional internships for 152 students, but through their philanthropic contributions, they have also helped to provide crucial scholarships for 2,232 Access students that help them to cope with the additional costs of attending university. We look forward to continuing to work with our supporters as we seek to grow the programme to offer 100 internships this summer.”
Access to the Workplace internships will take place between May and August this year, with students completing placements ranging from 4 – 12 weeks. In 2022, the programme has also introduced a small pilot to explore the possibility of extending its benefits to other student groups, commencing with allocating 10% of places for neuro-diverse students this year.
DCU Access to the Workplace is supported by Rethink Ireland’s Children and Youth Fund, which has enabled the programme’s growth and development from 2020 to 2022. The full list of partner companies can be viewed here.