Reflections on our first large scale assessment simulation of the season

We’ve been quiet on our news page of late but not quiet in any other respect! On Monday we ran our first large scale assessment simulation of the season with the wonderful Manchester Fashion Institute at the magnificent Etihad Stadium.

If you follow us on LinkedIn or twitter, you may have seen our enthusiastic coverage of the event on the day. What you won’t see is the amount of work that goes into preparing for events of this scale:

  • Design of relevant materials

  • Stakeholder meetings

  • Venue visits (not a hardship to be fair when the venue is as cool as the Etihad!)

  • Health and safety audits

  • Student briefings

  • Assessor briefings

  • Managing student queries

  • THE SCHEDULE – big letters for a big job – you would not believe how long it takes to get this finalised!

  • Printing and packing up assessor packs

  • Preparation of student feedback packs

  • Scoring of application forms

  • Setting up the venue

On the day itself, there is always a slight fear that we have forgotten something but this was our fourth year of running the simulation for MFI and we all agree it just keeps getting better. Assessors comment that it is well organised and slick and the students receive individual schedules which show them their agenda for the day.

As the students start to arrive, nerves are evident on their faces. Most of them haven’t experienced an assessment centre before, certainly not at graduate level anyway. They don’t really know what to expect and often feel anxious. One of my favourite times at these events is right after the first exercise. The energy in the main suite is high as students realise that actually their first exercise wasn’t as bad as they were expecting and you can see them start to visibly relax and enjoy the day. As they finish the last exercise, there is relief and satisfaction in the air and they are eager to get their feedback.

An observation I have of students from this faculty is that they are massively talented and creative (students from the Buying & Merchandising course were my top pick for these schemes when I was recruiting for John Lewis) but they can lack confidence and that is what the assessment simulation programme is about. It’s giving them the knowledge and experience of the assessment centre process so they feel able to apply for placement and graduate schemes and compete effectively with other students. After all practise makes perfect!

The majority of students we met on Monday were excellently prepared and really made the most of the experience. I am excited to see the impact the programme has on placement statistics this year and equally excited to work with the students attending next year.

The team are now finalising the last preparations for our largest assessment simulation yet – over 1000 students at Watford Stadium in a couple of weeks. We then head to Canterbury and Lincoln and possibly a couple of others we hope to announce soon!

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