As students across the country prepare to graduate, it’s likely that many will feel daunted by the prospect of joining the pool of graduates searching for a job, not to mention the competitive selection processes they will often face.
University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) graduate Charlotte Whittle, on the other hand, doesn’t need to worry. Through her involvement with Lancashire Business School’s innovative LaunchPad programme, the marketing and business student secured a permanent role with Parkwood Holdings before she even received her results.
In her second year of University Charlotte became part of LaunchPad, UCLan’s prestigious leadership and career development programme designed to help students achieve their professional goals. Through the programme, Charlotte and other high-achieving students at the University received personal mentoring and coaching from industry specialists who provided a valuable link to the business world.
For Charlotte, one of the most significant benefits of the programme was the self-belief she was able to develop as a result of the different experiences.
“The programme gave me the confidence to know that I can achieve my goals,” she says. “I’d always assumed that it was impossible to compete with graduates from the likes of Oxford and Cambridge, but through the insight I’ve gained on the programme I know it’s actually an even playing field; if you work hard you’re just as likely to succeed. I now know I can compete with Oxbridge graduates, and because of LaunchPad I have the self-belief to do it.”
As part of the LaunchPad programme, Charlotte travelled to Hong Kong where the students were given the opportunity to experience the working culture and network with influential business people.
Charlotte said: “It was a fantastic experience and I was able to meet people I would never normally have come into contact with. We exchanged details with business leaders and you never know what opportunities that might lead to in the future. It was also interesting to witness the work ethic there, which is very different to our own and gave me useful insight into business at an international level.”
Through LaunchPad, Charlotte became one of only nine students and graduates in the UK invited to attend a competitive Christmas School run by advertising and PR agency BJL, whose clients include British Airways, Asda, and Yorkshire Building Society. The Christmas School is an intensive programme which culminated in Charlotte presenting a creative launch campaign to a senior panel at the company.
Charlotte impressed so much that she was invited back to BJL as part of a work placement which saw her work with the brand team on various projects and business development. She also took part in the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) pitch competition where her team reached the final and presented a campaign to Mars at its headquarters in Leicestershire.
Other initiatives Charlotte has been part of through LaunchPad include an entrepreneurial masterclass from Paul Heathcote MBE and a meeting with chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, Barbara Spicer.
The LaunchPad programme has strong business links and when a project assistant role became available with Parkwood Holdings, a national provider of support services, Charlotte’s LaunchPad mentor put her forward. Despite not having yet completed her degree, Charlotte was offered the role, which will see her working closely with the chairman on different projects, accounts and finance.
Charlotte said: “I wouldn’t have known about the opportunity if it wasn’t for LaunchPad and I was mentored through the application and interview process, even down to what shoes I wore.
“I’ve loved being part of LaunchPad and I can’t recommend it enough. There’s a lot of controversy about the rise in student fees in the UK but when something like this is available at your University it makes the cost worth it.
“The best thing about LaunchPad was feeling part of something and knowing I was respected by tutors and business leaders. It’s given me the self-belief to go after opportunities and ultimately be successful.”
Senior Lecturer (Employability Lead) and LaunchPad Lead, Francesca Walker, said: “LaunchPad has been designed to develop both leadership skills and personal effectiveness and Charlotte is a prime example of the type of student that we have on the programme; they really listen, are highly intelligent and have the will and determination to succeed.
“I think one of the most important traits these students demonstrate is resilience, and this is particularly the case with Charlotte. She rose to every challenge the programme threw at her, took advantage of every opportunity (of which there were many), shared her valuable experience and in doing so encouraged others to achieve the same level of success.
“Charlotte is a credit to the LaunchPad programme and to the University.”