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My name is Ryan, I’m an English Language and Politics student at Aston University, and I’ve had a brilliant placement year working with The People’s Orchestra!

When I applied back at the start of 2020, I knew the sort of position I had in mind. I would do a lot of writing, have some creative freedom over the work I was doing and gain some valuable experience in working in an office team environment. I would have something unique to put on my CV for employers to see after university and, most importantly, my placement would enable me to develop as a person.

What attracted me here was how different the organisation is. It’s both a community orchestra and a social responsibility charity – an intriguing combination. I’ve been able to combine my interests in music with my passion for social welfare causes in ways which I would never have imagined.

The world in which I stepped into the head office in West Bromwich was a VERY different one to when I applied. Instead of going in three days a week, we would be present for Tuesday and Wednesday, while working from home on Thursday. We would have to sit socially distanced in the office, at desks across the room, and if we needed to come into close contact for a project, we had to wear a mask. And while working from home has been a big challenge, and one which I don’t think I’ll ever fully get used to, it was my first introduction to one of the qualities which for me defines The People’s Orchestra – adaptability.

In so many ways have I had to learn to be more adaptable and more flexible this year. A normal day could range from researching some health benefits for joining an orchestra, to planning a podcast for the social media channels and shooting a promotional video – far more than just creative writing. One of the biggest things which I am grateful for is that The People’s Orchestra haven’t treated me or anyone else on placement like an intern – we’ve been embraced into the team and treated like equals. A lot of the placement year horror stories I’ve heard have involved members of staff being rude, making interns make tea and being a boring and unproductive experience. My time here has been the complete opposite.

Everyone at TPO is so nice, and I felt really valued. Within a few weeks I was leading a podcast project (which has since snowballed into something bigger!), being entrusted to write press releases and website posts and given freedom on some of my tasks. There’s always something to do here as we’re always evolving and taking on new projects. A big one for this year and next is the work TPO are doing on their Commonwealth Community Music Initiative, with a variety of musical and art projects to bring together the cultures and languages of every nation involved.

If you’re looking for a placement, I couldn’t recommend The People’s Orchestra highly enough. Although it is a charity placement and I didn’t get paid for my work, the experience I have gained is far better for me than I would have got from simply looking for paid internships and becoming a small fish in a big company. At TPO, you get to see how things are done at a management level and take on many different challenges at once as a trusted, valued member of a team – and will set you up brilliantly for your future career.

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