This summer sees Webrevolve celebrate a very special landmark on the company’s road to becoming one of Liverpool’s leading digital marketing agencies.
2016 marks the fifth consecutive year that Webrevolve has welcomed Liverpool John Moores University students through its doors for their placement year, having started a long and fruitful relationship with the university back in the summer of 2011.
In that time a number of LJMU students have been part of a wider web team responsible for working alongside clients such as the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Spa in Liverpool city centre as well as Salford Red Devils rugby league team. Not to mention over 500 websites for clients in the USA covering the legal sector, construction industry and manufacturing.
As well as providing vital hands-on industry experience to aid their studies, Webrevolve also give students the opportunity to get their vital first step into the world of web development; six of the current full time staff completed a placement programme.
But the links don’t end there. Company founder and CEO, James Rowan, is a graduate of LJMU himself and on the board of governors; further cementing the bond between one of the city’s greatest learning establishments and the company he set-up back in 2009.
“While I was still a student I began freelancing as a web designer,” he explains. “In my third year I joined the University of Liverpool’s web team on a paid placement and this experience gave me the knowledge, skills and confidence I needed to found Webrevolve. I was also fortunate enough to use funding from the LJMU Centre for Entrepreneurship to start the company.’’
James started Webrevolve from his bedroom after graduating, and as the company grew he immediately needed staff following a move into city centre offices. His links with LJMU gave him the perfect opportunity to expand Webrevolve, and enable future web developers gain industry and commercial experience while continuing their studies.
By teaming up with his old University he was able to give the new generation of students a foot-in-the-door when it comes to the competitive world of digital marketing and development, while also passing on the experience and expertise he has gained during his time in the industry.
“I have experienced the concept of placements from both sides of the fence,” he explains. “spending 12 months working in the Liverpool University web team as part of my sandwich year at LJMU, some 10 years ago, and now taking on students.
“Students benefit from working within an experienced team, on real projects. Businesses benefit from an employee eager to push their skills and impress their employers for future opportunities. It’s a win-win for all involved.
“Our recruitment strategy over the last 5 years has given us the edge over our competitors and we have a steady cycle of highly skilled graduates being trained up and prepared for employment in the web industry. We bring them in even before they have graduated and spend time to mould them into confident and skilled developers.
“During a students’ final year at university, they work part-time with Webrevolve and then hit the ground running almost the day after graduation. We have 10 LJMU students/graduates in our web department at this moment in time.”
But it’s not just businesses like Webrevolve who benefit from such a reciprocal arrangement. For LJMU a placement programme provides the University the peace of mind that their students are gaining the best experience available within a well respected, local business.
“We are privileged that James, one of our LJMU Graduates, and all at Webrevolve maintain a strong link with us,” explains Lucy McKeown, Employment Engagement Officer at the Department of Computer Science.
“We are extremely proud of our relationship and year-on-year we have witnessed a number of our students grow in experience and confidence after completing a successful year long placement. We are also honoured to have their team on board at many of our events such as talks to students seeking a placement, placement fairs and Industry panel meetings.”
In a placement course, students go to work at a company for a year where there learn practical skills relevant to the degree they are studying for instead of going to lectures. Many employers are now looking for experience as well as academic achievement in candidates, so work placements are becoming increasingly important.
A survey carried out in 2014 by High Fliers Research revealed that The Times top 100 UK graduate employers confirmed that a record 37% of entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations – often in the form of placements.
So what of those who have undertaken such a placement? How do they think entering a work placement programme while studying gives them an advantage over other students? Kyle Maguire is studying IT & Multimedia at LJMU but has been working at Webrevolve for the past year as a Developer.
“I wanted to gain real world experience,” he says. “Learning from experts and having the chance to spend all day, every day, coding, which I felt would benefit me far more than only being able to do it in the evenings.
“I love the atmosphere, of the workplace, I love the work, I love learning new techniques on how to improve my code as a whole and make it more efficient. It’s my goal to become a confident, skilled junior web developer and gain as much knowledge as I possibly can during my placement.”
LJMU offers a choice of over 250 undergraduate and postgraduate courses to students from across the country and all over the world with around a third of those taking part in placement programmes and over 100 students in the workplace at any one time; giving them a real insight into life after university, something which Dr Mark Taylor from the Department of Computer Science at LJMU is keen to stress.
“Webrevolve has developed the careers of an increasing number of LJMU students,” he says. “Not just during placement, but also during employment after graduation.”