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Lua Stifani, alumna, Politics student

How one politics student used his work placement to add real value to his CV and open new doors

As part of his work placement in the second year of his BA (Hons) International Politics (which is now BA (Hons) Politics), Lua Stifani secured a role in the office of Steve Reed MP. His job saw him working in both the House of Commons and his local constituency offices in Croydon North.

"It was a great opportunity, and something I was keen to try and do for my work placement," says Lua. "In my case, it was actually networking that gave me access to the opportunity – a close friend of mine is friends with Steve Reed – but many MPs appreciate volunteers and interns in their offices and I am always seeing opportunities on the LSBU employability site for roles, as well as on the parliament website."

Skills and understanding

Although Lua had found the placement himself, he is in no doubt that the skills and understanding he had gained during his time at LSBU put him in a strong position to perform well in the role. "However, you get your foot in the door, once you are there it is up to you to shine," says Lua. "The skills I have learned at university have been very helpful in helping me do that."

Make the most of the opportunity

At the time, Steve Reed was a newly appointed Labour MP, following a by-election in November 2012. He was new not just to the role, but also to his office – though they had plenty of experience in working with work placement students, and were well-placed to help Lua make the most of his opportunity.

"I was mainly based in the Commons Office, " recalls Lua, "though I did spend some weeks in the Croydon North offices. I also attended some of Steve Reed's meetings in the Commons and his constituency. My roles included calling constituents to discuss their issues and concerns, and sending them letters. I also wrote press releases on key issues that Steve was championing."

Making a real difference

One example of where Lua's work helped to make a real difference was the Marriage (Same-Sex) Bill. "Steve was a champion of the Bill," he explains, "and had to deal with support and opposition to it within his constituency. He replied to each constituent who contacted him to explain why he was voting in favour of the bill, which I helped with."

Research also formed a key part of Lua's responsibilities during the placement. "Two particular examples stand out to me," he says. "On one occasion I looked into the detail of Boris Johnson and his broken promise regarding the extension of the Croydon Tram Link, and I also investigated the unregulated estate agent sector. My research on both of these issues resulted in articles being published in the local Croydon press."

Practical opportunities

It was practical opportunities such as these that really made the placement stand out as a key part of Lua's education. "I was able to see the theory I had studied in the classroom coming to life before my eyes," he says. "I'd completed the Approaches to Social Policy module the previous semester, so I was aware of some areas of policy making and lobbying."

Sitting in on a meeting between Steve and a lobbyist group campaigning for an amendment to the Families Bill made me realise just how important work experience is in helping to understand the reality of the issues we study.

A stronger CV

Lua feels his CV is much stronger as a result of his placement. "I can demonstrate to employers that I have practical experience as well as academic knowledge when it comes to politics. I also felt that I grew personally during the 15 weeks of my work placement. I've worked from an early age so I have always had a strong work ethic, but working in such a professional environment really brushes off on you. It has helped me to be more professional in all aspects of life, and I cannot recommend work experience highly enough!"