EDITORIAL: Real-life training means headstart

There's work experience, where you make the tea, photocopy documents and perhaps tag along to a client meeting. Then there's work experience on the University of Central Lancashire model, where you pitch for business, sell in stories and report back regularly to clients.

The clients are a brave bunch, who - depending on your point of view - should either be commended for taking a risk using student PROs for real campaigns, or condemned for replacing experience and insight with enthusiasm and energy.

As long as no serious damage is done by the Preston-based student PROs, who operate under the snappy name UK Progress - showing at the very least a knack for corporate branding - the former of these two responses is the more appropriate.

Clients get PR services at a fraction of the cost a 'real' PR firm would charge. In this instance, a flat fee of £2,000 is levied to offset the costs incurred, such as mobile phones, transport and (one hopes) a round of drinks for the students after a busy day.

For the staff of UK Progress, it offers an unprecedented opportunity to work on real PR campaigns. If employers are faced with the choice of hiring Preston alumni - effectively trained second jobbers for the price of graduate trainees - or those from elsewhere, it is fairly clear which they will pick.

Figures last week suggested that four fifths of PR-degree graduates are now employed full-time in the PR business. For those with a Preston qualification, that figure must surely be 100 per cent.

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