It is that time of the year, when students must decide which modules to take in the 2017/18 academic year. With a range of different modules to choose from, all with a variety of benefits, this is decision-making at its most challenging!

For some students in the College of Arts and Law, there is an exciting option available called the Professional Skills Module. For students in the Department of History and Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, this is an optional module for second year students and allows students to explore how their academic skills can be used in a professional working environment. Students spend a total of 120 hours over two terms placed in an organisation related to history and heritage, enabling them to build up key skills and add professional experience to their CV.

To help students decide whether to apply for this module, I have been speaking with Ben Drawer, second-year CAHA student, about his placement at the Cadbury Research Library and the benefits of choosing a placement module.


Why did you choose the Professional Skills Module?

I understood the need to develop transferable skills whilst I was at University to better my chances of getting a job. I also wanted to build my confidence. The module seemed like something that would make me more employable.

Describe briefly the activities you’ve been involved in during this placement.

I’ve been involved in three projects. Firstly I helped with the Athletics Collection, an archive which was set up by the National Sports Council. I’ve been cataloguing newspaper articles and photos related to athletics in the 20th Century. I write up captions, making it easier for researchers to find the articles and photos they need.

Secondly, I worked on a project for Save the Children, looking at their journals which had been documented during the 20th Century. These documents talked about their activities, what they had been doing and more general developments in child welfare and legislation. I summarised articles and catalogued these so they were easier to find.

Currently I am working on the Noel Coward collection, looking through telegrams and cables which his secretary wrote and cataloguing basic information about these.

What have you enjoyed most about the module?

I enjoyed most the Save the Children project as I was already interested in this area and I found the content very interesting. I’ve enjoyed coming to the Cadbury Research Library as it is a pleasant environment to work in.

What has been most challenging?

Keeping motivated – I have to self-manage a lot whilst I’m here, as my supervisor checks in with me a couple of times per day. Some days I have to work extra hard to stay focused.

What skills do you think you have improved?

My intellectual skills have improved as I now have experience analysing articles and synthesising information together. My subject knowledge is better, as I didn’t have any previous knowledge of archiving. Now I know how to use CALM (the software used by all archives in the country), and I have been given introductory sessions on other aspects of archiving, e.g. conservation, reprographics, retrievals. The placement has also helped my skills of self-management and using my time efficiently.

What impact do you think your work has had on Cadbury Research Library?

Some of my work has already been published on the University CALM view page (the online catalogue for special collections). It has been valuable as these are projects that Cadbury Research Library started beforehand and have asked me to continue. It is useful to researchers who want to use the collections here.

Do you have any regrets taking the module?

None! It has been a very useful module.

What work experience have you done previously to this?

I worked at the Centre for Effective Altruism in Oxford. I spent two weeks working with the Outreach Team.

Written by Sarah Hughes, CAL Placements Officer