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Monday 27 February 2017

Third year business management student Anthony Abbott has come a long way since joining the University in 2014, taking advantage of regular one-to-one academic support to manage his dyslexia and improve his report writing skills. 

Encouraged by his tutors and his new academic confidence, Anthony got involved with the Change100 internship scheme in the summer between his second and third year. Change100 seeks out talented students who are affected by disability and connects them with valuable paid internship opportunities.

Anthony Abbott

We caught up with Anthony, who is now midway though his third year, to find out more about his experience as a Change100 intern.

Can you tell us a bit more about your studies here at Solent?

I am currently a third year BA (Hons) Business Management student. The course looks at all different aspects of business - during the first year we undertook HR, marketing, accounting and economics modules to name just a few.

My favourite was the 'Economics in Business' module because we learnt how the financial crisis of 2008 occurred and the measures the UK government had taken with the Bank of England to help support and boost the UK economy.

Another highlight was our case study exam, based on a struggling business. The brief went live at 9am in the morning and we had to write a full report with our recommendations, including academic theories and models, before the end of the day. This gave us a real taste of what it is like in real business where tight deadlines are far from uncommon

What is Change100?

The Change100 programme tries to remove the barriers faced by people with disables in the workplace. Change100 partners with a wide range of organisations from across the country such as Lloyds Bank, the BBC, Taylor Wimpey, the Medical Research Council and Simplyhealth.

All Change100 interns are employed by their host organisations and paid at least the living wage. All interns also receive a year's mentoring from their host organisation.

The Change100 partnered organisations benefit from the programme too. My line manager at Simplyhealth said:

"A great advantage of having Anthony with us is that it gave us an external viewpoint on what we are trying to achieve."

Tell us about your Change100 internship at Simplyhealth.

I was a change analyst working in the 'IT and business change' department. I worked with the IT service desk on a project to strengthen the information provided through the employee self-help service desk portal. This involved me speaking to people from other departments to gain feedback on how to best roll out Confluence (a knowledge and collaboration tool) across the business.

I was given real responsibility in my role, with the freedom to manage my part of the project and decide the best option. I learnt how to manage my time better and the results are really showing this year.

Anthony with the Simplyhealth team.

My summer placement at Simplyhealth will also enhance my graduate prospects because I can show to future employers that I can manage parts of a project successfully.

I loved working at Simplyhealth, it was great! It's just such a shame that it ended so quickly. The culture at the company is so open and friendly and I was warmly welcomed into the business. 

You had a mentor while you were working – how did this help with your placement?

The Change100 programme requires all interns to receive mentoring. I was paired up with Sarah, who is dyslexic like myself. Sarah works in the 'customer and client accounts' department at Simplyhealth and we will work together until the end of 2017.

Having a mentor whilst at Simplyhealth was great because I was able to present my ideas to her and she could provide me with feedback. Also, it meant I had access to the team she managed and I was able to ask them for their opinions and thoughts on the project I was working on. Now that I am back at university I return to Simplyhealth once a month for a mentoring meeting.

Have you had much contact with the support services on offer here at Solent?

As I am dyslexic I receive weekly one-to-one support from a study skills tutor. I have been receiving this support from Access Solent since my first year and now it is really starting to pay dividends. When I first started at Solent the structure of my reports was poor and it made them difficult to read. This has greatly improved thanks to the help from my tutor.

Do you have any advice for business management students who have just started their first year?

My first piece of advice to any business management student, regardless of what university you go to, is get a placement/internship - graduate employers value them highly. You don't want to be in the position where you enter your final year without any valuable work experience.

An example of just how valuable placements can be: when I finished my first placement as an HR Assistant, I received calls/emails from a few recruitment agencies asking if I was interested in full time HR positions.

I would also encourage you to join a sports team or a society of some sort. If your university has an Enactus team then I'd definitely say that you should join it.

Lastly, have some fun!

Do you have any advice for dyslexic students who may be considering University?

Start writing your personal statements now! Do some research into the universities that interest you and see what their support for dyslexic students is like - some will be better than others. That's why I chose Solent!

Some of you may question your own capabilities and wonder: will it be too challenging for me? Will I be able to cope with the workload? Let me share a little story with you. About five years ago a teacher at school told me university will be too hard for me, and I wouldn't be able to cope. Five years later I'm at university - I'm coping well and I've achieved a 2.1 for my first and second year.

Solent students benefit from regular access to personalised learning support.

If you decide to follow my advice then it will take great courage to do so, there will probably be times when you question yourself why you are doing this and whether you are out of your depth. I would say to carry on as there is light at the end of the tunnel! Remember, no university would have accepted you if they thought you were going to fail.

Finally, don't let anyone suppress your aspirations and dreams - I certainly haven't. I have my own dreams I want to accomplish after graduating from Solent and I am sure people will say to me: "Anthony are you really being realistic? I don't think this is achievable." Well, just remember the little story I shared with you earlier.

How can others take part in the Change100 programme?

To apply you will need to be a penultimate year student with a disability or a long-term health condition. Applications for summer placements take place in January each year.

You will then find out if you have progressed to the assessment centre stage. These interviews are held across the country. In April/May, candidates will find out if they have been successful in gaining a Change100 placement.

Visit the Change100 website