Case Study

University Hospitals Plymouth adapt existing IT for work experience

How University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) adapted its volunteering IT system to manage work experience applications and placements.

5 June 2024


In 2023, UHP experienced a demand for 240 work experience placements from people of all ages. Many of the applications were from friends or family of staff members on an ad-hoc basis. The trust wanted to manage this interest and make a fairer application process. It decided to use its onboarding system, which had previously only been utilised to manage volunteering positions. Once set up for managing work experience and T Level placements, the trust added helpful links to resources, a contact hub, trust policies and used the system to advertise a wide variety of opportunities.   

In addition to other opportunities, the trust introduced a work experience week entitled ‘Introduction to Healthcare Careers’ for Year 10 students. This consisted of a classroom-based programme of interactive activities. Staff from imaging, accident and emergency, cardiology and many more departments would visit the classroom and explain and demonstrate keys aspects of their roles. The week also included a tour of the hospital.   

The link to the system was promoted widely in the local area and sent to schools nearby to share with students. The trust built strong relationships with the local schools, colleges and careers services and provided guidance to help people with applications. 

Key benefits and outcomes

  • The trust created a hub of opportunities, where all the related information was held in one place.
  • The system was live, so students could see which placements were full and which still had vacancies. 
  • In 2024, the trust received 78 applications from Year 10 students and provided 40 summer placement pledges. The trust ensured that the application process was competitive to reflect real-life recruitment practices. 
  • Approximately, 50 per cent of applicants were over 18 years old including those who were considering a career change. 

What the organisation faced

Before the onboarding system was introduced, the trust used spreadsheets to manage the work experience and T Level placement process. Applications were on paper or via MS forms and the team was overwhelmed with emails from managers and students throughout each stage of the process. Previously, students would arrange their own placement which often meant those who already knew someone working within the hospital were more successful than those who did not. The trust only had a small team and needed a solution to offer a fair and consistent approach and to reduce the required administration. The system provided a fair application process, open to all via an external website with a transparent selection process.

What the organisation did

The trust volunteer services team already used the system so the work experience team met with them to explore whether the system could be utilised for work experience and T Level placements. The decision was made with the account manager to proceed as it was financially and practically viable. It took three months to procure the system and a month for systems training. Once complete, the team began to create and build its platform. 

The trust uses Assemble for work experience placements as well as for T Level placements which involve storing additional information such as DBS and immunisation details. The system also has the functionality to rota. Although this feature is not currently used, the trust is looking into utilising it for future T Level placements.   

Results and benefits

  • Replacing the original time-consuming administration system means that the work experience team has been able to offer more placements than before and can now focus on quality as well as quantity. 
  • The trust built good relationships with local schools and colleges and provided an easily accessible link to the system and guidance for applications. 
  • To share work experience opportunities with students, the trust has connected with the local college who host an NHS Careers Hub on their dedicated website. Students can now apply and be assured their application will be processed using a fair and transparent application process. The trust work experience team works closely with the Hub team to gauge the areas of interest from students. The trust uses this data to widen the placement areas offered within UHP.

Next Steps

  • The trust is exploring ways to collect data linking those who have attended work experience and those who are later offered employment.  
  • It is also considering providing bespoke 1-day events for certain specialisms such as radiology.   
  • The trust is looking to provide T Level placements in their digital teams, work experience placements in their estates and facilities teams, and virtual work experience placements. 
  • The trust is exploring how to provide non-clinical placements where short-term access to IT systems would be needed.   
  • The trust is looking at how to address challenges such as attendance issues and what to do when young people do not know how to conduct themselves suitably in the workplace. 

Contact details

If you would like more information about this case study, please contact the workforce supply team.


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