London College of Communication celebrates evolving collaboration with Penguin Michael Joseph
Cultivating relationships between education and industry is vital for progress – not only by training the next generation of creatives, but also by integrating fresh, diverse perspectives within the professional landscape.
At London College of Communication (LCC), we’re passionate about engaging with organisations at the forefront of contemporary design, media and screen. By emphasising the symbiosis between teaching, learning and making, our students are positioned at the cutting-edge of their disciplines while developing the employability skills needed to make a living doing what they love.
This ethos has shaped projects such as our ongoing collaboration with one of the UK’s most influential publishing houses, Penguin Michael Joseph. With a focus on nurturing writers and developing bestsellers across genres ranging from women’s fiction, thriller and crime to cookery, memoir and lifestyle, the Penguin Michael Joseph team are passionate about bringing together different voices to better reflect both the writers and readers of the UK – a core value which mirrors LCC’s dedication to nurturing the diversity of emerging creatives and the audiences they aim to engage.
The inaugural stage of the partnership focused on the development of an Industry Mentoring Programme, which enables students across our MA Publishing and BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Publishing courses to gain valuable career insights from professionals working within their target industry space. Each cycle, mentees are matched with mentors at Penguin Michael Joseph who can offer vital expertise in areas including editorial, art, production, audio, rights and communications before meeting regularly to discuss entry points to the publishing landscape and the potential career paths within it.
Over the course of 5-6 months, students are then supported to develop key skills and experience through 2 phases: the first of which offers an opportunity to explore the industry and discuss potential future plans, while the second offers the chance to gain practical advice and feedback around CVs, job applications and connection-building. By the close of the cycle, students report feeling more confident in possessing the key skills and networks they need to better prepare for their professional futures following graduation.
The first iteration of the Mentorship Programme matched 16 mentoring pairs, with a further 30 pairs across an additional 3 intakes. Since then, mentees have progressed to organisations such as Orion Books, Michael O’Mara Books and Turnaround Publisher Services in roles across areas including production, administration and sales.
"I think we have a lot to learn from each other"
Sophie Shaw, Marketing Manager at Penguin Michael Joseph, explained that the mentoring programme not only offered an opportunity to nurture emerging talent, but also to develop her own skills.
“I’m so glad I was involved in the LCC mentoring programme – I really enjoyed getting to know my mentee, talking to her about the publishing industry, and trying to share things that I wish someone had told me!” she said.
“It was such a proud moment when my mentee let me know that she'd received a job offer.
“I’d really recommend the scheme to both mentors and mentees as I think we have a lot to learn from each other.”
Xanthea Johnston, Editorial Assistant at Penguin Michael Joseph Non-Fiction, highlighted the ways in which mentoring can help creatives to navigate the first steps on their career journeys.
“I found that the mentoring scheme is super helpful for getting the students prepared for work and thinking about the steps they need to take to get the job they want,” she said.
“My mentee and I went over his CV and worked out a cover letter template he could use, which he found very useful.
“I would recommend the programme to anyone looking to get a foot in the door in publishing or related industries!"
“Placing the College at the centre of debates around the future of design and communication”
Since its inception, the collaboration has continued to develop beyond mentorship to include a range of complementary activities that aim to further embed industry insights into the curriculum.
Over the past year, students have had opportunities to participate in seminars discussing diversity in publishing; Q&A sessions with members of the Penguin Michael Joseph team; and a podcast project which enabled them to build their interviewing and content creation skills while learning more about some of the major contemporary challenges – and solutions – within the sector.
Future plans also include a zine-making collaboration with BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Publishing students, who will be supported to consider storytelling in its many forms across mixed media.
As the partnership continues to grow, further initiatives around the publication process and industry networking will also be explored within the upcoming academic year.
Luminita Molico, Graduate Engagement Manager at LCC, highlighted the importance of establishing a collaboration with industry colleagues who share a similar vision and ethos.
“We are so pleased to be working with Penguin, a company with which we share a common set of core values; a commitment to helping future generations of creative practitioners to achieve their career ambitions, regardless of their background and circumstances; and a drive to affect change across wider society,” she said.
“As a College with a strong history of industry links, we are working towards not only offering students the best possible educational experience, but also supporting them to kickstart their careers after graduation. This is part of our ongoing efforts to forge strong links with industry leaders whilst placing the College at the centre of debates around the future of design and communication.”
“Jointly exploring ways to bring different voices to the industry”
Frania Hall, Course Leader for MA Publishing, explained that having the opportunity to collaborate so closely with a leading industry partner has enabled the relationship to evolve organically and make a tangible impact on the lives of LCC students.
“The relationship we have with Penguin Michael Joseph has been an incredibly fruitful one. Because we work together on a number of initiatives, and because they are so generous with their time and expertise, we’re able to give students really embedded experiences with them - whether we’re running a workshop on diversity or exploring their wider activities in a podcast series,” she said.
“The mentorship programme is a central plank of the relationship – students get to talk in-depth with someone in the industry, and it helps them transition from their academic lives to future employment, showing them how to put what they have learnt into practice.
“The fact we can share conversations between students and the staff at LCC and PMJ is central. We’re learning together in this sense, and in particular, jointly exploring ways to bring different voices to the industry.”
“The publishing world is your oyster!”
We caught up with Louise Moore, Managing Director at Penguin Michael Joseph, and Catherine Le Lievre, PA to Louise and coordinator of the mentorship initiative, to discuss the ways in which the collaboration has opened up a vital dialogue between education and industry by not only supporting student aspirations, but also providing access to valuable insight into the next generation of creative professionals.
How did the initiative begin, and why did you feel that LCC was a good fit for collaboration?
Penguin is an international publishing house, but we as a team have our HQ in Vauxhall, so we’re always looking for ways we can get involved with the local community to share our love of storytelling and hear new voices. The partnership with LCC took shape really quite naturally, as we were lucky enough to meet Frania Hall, Course Leader on MA Publishing, through Louise’s work as a UAL Governor.
So far, it has proven the perfect opportunity to connect with local students who are interested in starting out in publishing (which can be hugely daunting) with young industry professionals who can offer a snapshot of what it is we do and how we all got here while offering practical support and guidance on career direction and development.
In addition to supporting our students through invaluable insight into industry, how has the initiative made an impact on the staff members who have generously donated their time as mentors?
There's been a lot of excitement around the initiative as it's an amazing opportunity to demystify the industry. Setting the scheme up has been engaging and hands-on, with lots of creative brainstorming around what we can do to tailor our time with our mentees to make the experience as beneficial as possible.
Our mentors are eager to see that they’re making a difference, however big or small, and we've been inundated with glowing reviews about what an incredibly bright and driven bunch the latest intake of mentees from the BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Publishing course are too. Hopefully, we'll be able to inspire a few to join our ranks!
And even if some of the students aren't necessarily interested in going into book publishing, it's still a great way to be able to offer the support and advice many of us wish we'd had when we were starting to think about the first steps in our careers.
Why do you think it’s important for Penguin Michael Joseph to nurture the future of the creative industries?
The Penguin mantra has always been: 'We make books for everyone because a book can change anyone'. Whatever age you come to them, books possess a unique power to open up the world.
We all have those stories - whether it's a childhood favourite or thought-provoking new memoir - that stay with us and continue to inspire us long after we've returned the book to the shelf, so at Penguin, we’re committed to fostering not only the future of the people who tell us stories – our authors – but also the careers of those who discover and help craft them: our publishing teams. By nurturing creative talent, we're able to speak to and empower the teachers, thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.
We know that this passion for creativity and innovation is shared by LCC and its students, and hope that through our partnership, together, we’ll be able to help the voices of our future journalists, writers and artists (to name but a few!) break through.