If you find yourself studying towards an engineering degree, it’s possible you will be required to undertake work placement or a year in industry. These can be invaluable insights into life as a graduate engineer, and they will also be powerful additions to your CV when you do finally apply for an engineering job.
Indeed, it’s worth bearing in mind that prospective employers will look favourably on applicants who have relevant work experience when applying for an engineering job. What’s more, a year in industry/university work placements bring with them a host of professional and personal benefits for you. These include:
- Giving you an insight into the sort of job role you can expect upon completion of your degree.
- Giving you the chance to make valuable industry contacts and grow your professional network.
- Applying your theoretical knowledge and classroom learning in a practical context.
- Developing the inter-personal skills that will help you in the workplace.
The challenge for students is knowing where to find placements when they are at university. In some cases, your work placement/time in industry will be organised or pre-arranged for you. At the very least, there will be a number of organisations and resources to help you secure a placement.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the resources out there to help you find the perfect university placement, and give some advice to ensure that you can make the most out of your university work placement.
What is a university work placement?
The most common form of work placement when you are studying engineering at university is the year in industry. Years in industry are also sometimes known as a ‘sandwich’ year. A quick Google search will allow you to find any number of engineering courses that offer a year in industry as part of your degree.
For example, Imperial College offers a five year Mechanical Engineering course, with a year in industry. Some universities, such as the University of Bristol, offer a slight reduction in fees for the year that students are undertaking their placement.
Years in industry are also a great opportunity for students to travel – with some universities offering their undergraduates the chance to do their year in industry in the UK or Europe.
If you’re looking to learn more about years in industry, it’s worth researching them at the same time as you’re researching universities. Almost every university website will have information about the year in industry/work experience options for their engineering degrees.
Because most years in industry/work placements will form part of your degree course, you can normally expect to be awarded academic credit.
How to find and organise your engineering placement
It may be that, in some instances, your university may organise your placement for you. If this is the case, then you’re probably all set!
However, in other cases, you should expect to arrange your own placement. If this is you, then we’ve put together a couple of tips to help you.
Draw up a list of prospective employers
There’s no harm in giving your research a bit of structure. It’s worth thinking about what kind of placement you want to study towards and why. Do you want to go and work for a FTSE 100 company, or a small business? What skills and competencies do you want to learn on your placement?
It’s ok if you don’t know the answers to these questions, and you might just want to apply for a placement with as many employers as you can – but it’s worth mapping out what you want from your placement before you begin.
It’s also a good idea to contact some companies to see if they are even offer placements to begin with!
And finally, don’t forget to check that your placement meets the requirements of your degree!
Talk to your careers service
It’s helpful to talk to your university’s careers service, as they will likely have a database of employer contacts that might be a good fit for you. You may also be able to explore existing vacancies.
You can also talk to a careers adviser, who may be able to help you to align your engineering skills and interests to the employer.
Many university courses which offer a year in industry will have a tutor/member of the faculty who can help you find the best fit placement.
Attend a careers fair
It can be helpful to attend a university careers fair when the opportunity arises (though you will need to attend well in advance of the commencement of your placement).
Again, this will help to focus your research if you’re organising your own placement and you can find out which companies offer placements/years in industry that might suit you.
Applying for your placement
As with full time graduate jobs, applying for a placement can sometimes be a competitive process, and you should be prepared to put a lot of work into your application. Here are a few things to bear in mind.
- It’s worth researching your chosen placement company carefully. Why do you want to work for them? What are your goals/objectives for your time on the placement?
- Make sure your CV is as polished as possible, and that you have aligned your skills and experiences to the requirements of the placement you’re applying for! Don’t submit the same CV to every company.
- Be prepared for some companies to have multiple application stages – for example, you may be asked to attend an interview, or spend a day at an assessment centre.
- If you do have to find your own placement, it’s worth submitting as many applications as possible. But it’s important to not get too disheartened if you only receive a few positive responses.
Where to start looking for your placement
When it comes time to start looking for your placement, it can be hard to know where to look. To put you in a good position, it’s useful to start thinking about your placement in the autumn term before you start (so basically one academic year before the placement is due to begin).
There are a lot of prospective employers out there, so we’ve compiled a few resources to help start looking for your perfect engineering placement.
All About Careers
This website is a great resource to research work placements and internships. Simply go to their search page and enter the criteria for the type of work placement/internship you’re looking for.
The IAESTE website is dedicated to helping students find relevant science and engineering-based work experience. This is also a great resource for anyone looking for international opportunities, as IESTE helps students find work experience in over 80 countries!
The Institute for Mechanical Engineers
The Institute’s website has a number of resources to help you with finding the right uni placement, whether it’s polishing up your CV, or preparing for an interview or assessment centre.
Another useful website to search advertised work placements, Prospects also has a host of resources to help you find and apply for engineering work experience.
RateMyPlacement is an easy to use resource for finding paid work placements. The website’s homepage has a useful live feed, telling you how many available placements and impending deadlines there are at any given time. There are also a whole host of other resources to help you find the right placement.