Working with business

As a student on one of our courses you’d have the unique opportunity to be studying in the centre of Jewellery Quarter alongside key members of trade and industry. 

We met with Claire Price, Programme Leader and Associate Head for Externality at the School, for her top tips when working with industry.

Claire Price

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How are students within the School of Jewellery able to work with industry whilst studying?

Students are able to work with industry in a variety of ways and some work part-time and on weekends. Quite a few students work in retail companies based around the Jewellery Quarter which gives them a good understanding of what the customer wants, how to price their work and how to sell it.

As well as working outside of their course, we also ensure students undertake some kind of work experience whilst studying. Some students find work within their home town when they’re on their holidays, whilst others stay in Birmingham and work is set up in the Quarter.

The competitions and live projects we run also give students the chance to work with businesses and gain experience. Quite often this results in students being awarded work experience with the company, which can range from a day, to a week to even longer. Students are also given the opportunity to visit companies and quite often we have industry specialists come into the School of Jewellery to talk to students about careers in different sectors. Understanding the different types of roles, companies and how they might fit in in the future gives students a real insight into the sector.

How does the School facilitate the opportunities for students to work with businesses?

We set up live projects which enable students to work with industry as part of their courses. The students who take the initiative to build a relationship with the companies, ask questions at visits and get as involved with them as they can are the ones who get the most rewards. Companies remember them as one to watch and follow their progression throughout their course.

For example, we collaborate with Charles Green to run a live project as part of the first CAD module on the BA (Hons) Jewellery and Silversmithing- Design for Industry course which allows students to gain an insight into the company and the opportunity to work on a bespoke project. They work with students for the day, who then go on to create a concept and present it back to a panel from the company. Students have previously won cash prizes and work experience for their designs and have seen their products go through to production, as well as been given employment after graduation.

How are you involved in creating opportunities for students to work with industry and what are the benefits of being able to work with businesses whilst studying?

We make sure to attend trade shows and as many events as we can to keep in touch with people we know and meet new potential contacts. A lot of opportunities come from keeping in touch with alumni as they often come back to talk to students about their experience and put us in touch with companies they’ve worked with.  

Maintaining these relationships with business takes a lot of time but it is really valuable. We now have such a big network of businesses wanting to work with the School, whether that’s through mentoring students, offering some of their contacts to work with or opportunities to exhibit at trade shows. They see what we’re doing here is valuable to the industry and they want to be part of that.

School of Jewellery - Working with business The School also quite often gets approached with opportunities to work on special projects, such as the competition to create the IAAF medals. These are valuable opportunities as they give students a level of professionalism, which is what companies are looking for- it’s what it takes to get noticed. Projects that involve working with actual business are brilliant for your CV and a great talking point at interviews.

Attitude and contacts can get you through the door, but it’s what you choose to do with that opportunity that will impact the level of your success. You need to put the work in throughout the course to put you on the best footing when you graduate.

What are the advantages of being based in the Jewellery Quarter for students?

Everything they need is on doorstop. We can walk around the corner to variety of different companies whether they’re manufacturer jewellers, workshops, retailers, casting houses, 3D print studios, setters, polishers. They are located in an area that houses the processes they might need and hopefully by the end of their first year they can start to use them as they develop their own products and businesses. Not all students are going to start producing jewellery from start to finish by hand from scratch, so being based in the Jewellery Quarter gives them the opportunity to start outsourcing.

It’s also a brilliant location for students in terms of getting work experience as businesses are right around the corner from the School. So much of our network is local and it’s so easy for students to just knock on business doors and ask for help. Not only are you learning from academics, but you can also ask for advice from local businesses.

It’s also really convenient in terms of sourcing materials. Metals, stones, and anything else you’d need is all on your doorstep.

Do you have any examples of success stories regarding students who have worked with business whilst studying with us/ after graduating?

We have some amazing success stories from students within the School. For example, BSc (Hons) Gemmology and Jewellery Studies student, Toby Cairn, secured a summer internship at Cullinan Mine in Africa, the third largest diamond mining company in the world and HND Jewellery and Silversmithing student Kai-Blu Triassi won the annual Weston Beamor (WB) Live Project for his contemporary geometric ‘Dyad’ engagement and wedding ring set design.

BA (Hons) Jewellery and Silversmithing student Menna Jones designed a medal that was used at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and some of our BA (Hons) Jewellery and Objects students won prizes and exhibited at Chatsworth House as part of the Live Project with the Royal Horticultural Society Chatsworth Flower Show.

As a practitioner yourself, what top tips would you give to students looking to get industry experience?

My most important piece of advice would be to take any opportunity that comes your way. You never know where it’s going to lead and what other opportunities will come from that. Through my Knowledge Transfer Partnership I was given lots of opportunities to travel and I was able to train to Diamond grade, which I didn’t know I’d be able to do when I began.  You can gain so much just by getting your foot in the door. Even if it’s not the exact role or exact company you wanted to work for, by taking the opportunity it could open the door to another role more suited to your interests. You just need to be keen, enthusiastic and get out there. Get involved with things, turn up to events and trade shows, and make sure you work hard!