Aire Global are an adaptive design agency, based in Leeds, producing packaging, point of sale and e-commerce for FMCG brands such as Kelloggs. Their aim is to simplify the Design-to-Print and ecommerce content (D2Pe) process and their unique solution transforms the way brand owners engage with shoppers, consumers, and retailers, both in-store and online.
As part of the University of Leeds’ involvement within the White Rose Industrial Physics Academy (WRIPA), the School of Physics and Astronomy co-ordinate the Physics into Work module lead by Dr Samatha Pugh. The module provides students with a fantastic opportunity to gain around 30 hours of work experience in their chosen industry, this can particularly help those students who do not have any existing work experience such as Year in Industry placements and Internships, and those who are looking for a short taster of the workplace in a particular sector. The students work on their employability skills: creating a CV and cover letter, networking and making speculative job applications to secure a placement, whilst the University of Leeds team also signpost possible opportunities identified through their employer networks and works with businesses to create suitable placement opportunities for the students on the module to apply to. The 30 hour placement can be structured flexible to either be condensed in one or two weeks, or spread across several weeks, to suit the business and the student.
Olivia Gaunt, Finance Manager at Aire Global saw the Physics into Work programme advertised on LinkedIn and enquired about the opportunity as she recognised that Aire Global would benefit from the additional support and skills of the physics students, particularly in relation to data handling. Siddeequah Azmi, WRIPA Business Engagement Officer at the University of Leeds followed this up with a short meeting to explore the possible options. As a result, Aire Global took on three undergraduate physics students during the Easter break of 2021 who worked across the finance and digital solutions team within the business.
‘There are always a number of projects running at the same time within these small teams. Which can sometimes lead to projects being pushed into the background, as aspects of work which are business critical take priority. The finance team were looking at applying for a number of business grants but there was a huge amount of evidence needed and multiple quotes required to submit the paperwork. So this is something we had one of the interns working on bringing the application to a point where it could be finalised, which was really beneficial.’
The placement students demonstrated a high level of data analysis skills, this unique skillset was very useful to both the finance and digital solutions teams.
“I know for us, it was a really big grant which we were awarded and we’re making claims already against the application. We’ve been told that the grant fund is now used up and new businesses can no longer apply for it. I think if we’d had the usual delays involved with not having enough people to work on the application, we may never have been awarded the grant”.
Another student worked on producing a financial report detailing complex data around profitability for the production side of the business. They approached each stage of the query building process – using MySQL – to develop the report with a clear, logical approach. The data was then presented in an easy-to-follow, self-explanatory visualisation using Superset. The student demonstrated strong data analysis and visualisation skills which were really useful and new to the business.
The Physics into Work placements demonstrate a huge return. They provided Aire Global with support for initiatives that might otherwise have gone on the back burner but instead they were able to run alongside everyday projects – in turn, that helped to drive the business forward. Due to the success of the programme, Aire Global are planning to run the placements again this year and are currently reviewing which areas of the business need support. They are also considering the possibility of a longer internship during the summer, which is something that they have never done before.
“It’s been a really positive experience for us, it’s something that we definitely want to do again because we’ve seen the benefits it can bring to our business and also we recognise that it’s really important for businesses to offer experiences like this so that students are prepared for the workplace, it’s been mutually beneficial.”
If you are a business interested in participating in the Physics into Work programme or engaging with students for final year projects, summer internships, or Year in Industry placements contact Siddeequah Azmi, WRIPA Business Engagement Officer at the University of Leeds on firstname.lastname@example.org