This week’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) governing body meeting in Geneva had comprehensive representation from Sheffield University Management School’s staff and students.
Working with Global Learning Opportunities in the Social Sciences (GLOSS), Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings from the Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) at the Management School have taken a group of Management and Politics students to the event.
Prof Heyes explained: “The ILO is a United Nations organisation that is responsible for developing and promoting international labour standards and helping its 185 member countries to promote decent work. It is governed on a tripartite basis by governments, employer bodies and trade unions from its member countries. Its governing body meeting develops policy recommendations that are then discussed and ratified at the International Labour Conference.
“As Director of WOERRC, I have a longstanding relationship with the ILO. The students have listened to debates regarding the global challenges facing the ILO, freedom of association, legal issues and international development. Thanks to my connection with the ILO, and the efforts of Sian Parkinson from GLOSS, they have met with ILO officials to discuss social dialogue, migration and employment and have also met an ILO intern – Aaron Booth – who is a former MSc Human Resource Management student from the Management School, recommended to the ILO by myself.
“The students will write a number of policy briefs on issues discussed during the trip. These will be disseminated via WOERRC and GLOSS and will also be highlighted at an event in Westminster on 15 June, which will be attended by PVC of the Faculty of Social Sciences Professor Gill Valentine and to which officials from the ILO and relevant UK organisations will be invited.”
The opportunity to attend this year’s governing body meeting was advertised to final-year BA Business Management and International Business Management students, as well as those on the MSc Human Resource Management and MSc International Business programmes. Prof Heyes and his team selected BA Business Management & Economics student Dean Broomhead as an attendee on the basis of a strong application which highlighted his interest in the ILO and his knowledge of its remit and activities.
We asked Dean what encouraged him to apply for the trip: “Primarily, my motivation behind applying was the fact that this was an incredible, unique opportunity. To have such an experience I believed would not only enhance my wider knowledge but also increase my employability.
“There hasn’t been a single ‘typical’ day at the event. We’ve had the flexibility to tailor our time to areas that we found interesting. Over the course of the trip, I’ve sat in on governing body meetings discussing a vast array of issues and had the opportunity to speak to ILO employees on their fields of expertise. We’ve also visited several other United Nations buildings. Two particular stand-out moments would be visiting ‘the palace of nations’ (the UN headquarters) as it was great to see the history and importance of such a place, and secondly sitting in on the governing body meetings of the ILO, with regards to accusations and breaking of conventions. I was able to see true diplomacy in action on several controversial and topical issues.
“I can certainly relate much of what I’ve learnt back to my degree. Whilst the wider awareness and experience is obviously fantastic, I now have a greater understanding of many topics that I can specifically convey in to my work at University. With relation to career prospects, I am certain this will help me. Not only have I had the chance to grow my network, but also the opportunity to develop many transferable skills.”
Dean found out about the opportunity through his Industrial Relations module, but there was plenty of email correspondence and promotion around the School – he encourages his peers to pay attention to such opportunities: “Whilst sometimes they can be on barely noticeable emails, there are opportunities do things like this through the Management School and I haven’t regretted any moment here. I’m a firm believer in saying yes to any opportunities like this. I doubt many students in the UK or even globally have had the chance to work in agencies of the United Nations and brush shoulders with diplomats and specialists alike.”
The ILO is an international organisation and this has been a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about the work, employment and employment relations challenges facing different countries around the world and to gain a better understanding of how policies are developed and implemented. Keep an eye out for similar opportunities through GLOSS and WOERRC.