“My placement year got me a dream start to my career.”
16 January 2023
In her third year, Criminology and Sociology (BSc) student Amy Reed went on placement at HMP & YOI Parc in Bridgend as a family support worker.
Amy wrote a blog piece telling us about her experience.
During my first year Invisible Walls Wales (IWW) visited uni for a talk to encourage students to gain work experience in a prison.
It really interested me, so I went on placement for about 10 months, and during that time my employers and I realised it’d be a great opportunity to extend it to a full year, so they got in touch with Andy Dodge (Employability and Placements Manager) who sorted it all out for us.
My main role was to provide advice and support to prisoners and their families throughout the prisoners’ sentence.
I provided this support through the family helpline, the prisoner helpline and 1-1 referrals with prisoners.
I’d also help with completing family court documents, assisting families in writing letters to their children, or setting up contact visits by liaising with social workers.
My first week
During my first week working in the prison I underwent key-holder training, which would allow me access around the prison without needing to be escorted.
At first, I found this very daunting, however, my confidence grew the more I went around the wings and completed work independently.
I developed my communication skills as I liaised with fellow prison staff, legal professionals, social workers, prisoners, and their families face-to-face, over the phone and via email.
I spoke with emotional family members on the prison’s helpline. It was my job to comfort them over their worries and concerns.
I found conversations on the phone hard as you cannot see each other’s body language.
I made sure to give family members time to speak, to let them know I was listening and that I’d try to resolve issues the best I could.
Trust and good communication links with families were incredibly important in the role so I’d ensure that anything that was in my control, such as giving them a call-back, I’d do exactly that.
Using skills at university to develop my own family intervention plan
My favourite part of working in the prison was being able to use skills I developed at university to research, design and create my own family intervention plan.
I was so pleased when my plan was implemented in the family intervention wing.
It was also a great feeling switching positions with colleagues, teaching and training them how to complete this new intervention.
I’m so proud that the prison implemented my plan and am so grateful for the experience.
Placements are the perfect opportunities to gain experience in your study field
If a student asked me about placements, I’d definitely recommend a placement year as it provided me the perfect opportunity to gain insight into my chosen career and industry.
My placement provided a comprehensive experience into careers in the prison service and has presented many careers to me that I didn’t know existed.
Better yet, it can result in getting your foot in the door, as I was offered a family support worker position at the prison.
My placement gave me confidence and extensive real-world knowledge, helping me in my final year at Cardiff University and gain employment.
I’m so glad for the opportunity and to have taken the year out of studying, it gave me such a boost.
We’d like to thank Amy for taking the time to talk to us about her work experience.
Our courses offer an optional placement year during your studies with us at the School of Social Sciences.
Find out more about work placements at the School of Social Sciences.