Your Placement Journey – toolkit for students

PURPOSE OF THE TOOLKIT

This toolkit is designed to support you to get the best from your placement experience. It will help you to think about your placement, looking at your expectations, recognising your own responsibilities alongside those of your university and placement provider.

For the purpose of this toolkit:

  • a placement is where learning opportunities are available for you to undertake engineering practice under guidance and supervision
  • an academic supervisor is your key link at your university, during your placement (if applicable)
  • a placement supervisor is your direct manager at the company

STRUCTURE

The Toolkit is structured to follow your placement journey and will provide you useful information to consider before, during and after your placement experience.

Aligned with the “Engineering Placement Toolkit“, designed for education institutions and employers, this toolkit aims to support your placement experience in three key stages: before, during and after placement.

 

before2during2after2

Before placement


When choosing your placement, you need to consider a wide range of aspects such as your motivations for doing a placement, type and length, discipline, location and type of company.

First of all, get in touch with your Faculty’s or University’s Career Services, as they will provide you useful information and support on choosing and applying for a placement, building up your CV, and getting prepared for interviews.

What can you expect from your university and employer at this stage?

 

Top Tips

  • Apply early, but don’t apply just for the sake of applying. Choose your placement according to your interests and expectations. After all, you will spend a lot of your time and effort in the company
  • Explore the websites of the companies you would like to work with. Many do offer placement opportunities. Also check with your university’s career services
  • Ensure you understand the specific expectations of the placement – get in contact with your academic supervisor (university) and your placement supervisor (employer)
  • Know how you are going to meet your learning outcomes. How will your learning be assessed? Keep a log book/diary of your activities
  • Have realistic expectations, and understand that they may change throughout your placement
  • Always act professionally with regard with punctuality, attitude and image. Your career services can provide you with a set of professional skills.

 

Should I do a placement?

Not sure about doing a placement?

These students have already done one, read what they had to say about it.

Doing a placement will improve your chances of getting a good job after graduating enhances your professional recognition.  There’s also lots of evidence that students who gain some form of relevant work experience during their studies improve their grades.

What placement should I choose?

Do you want to narrow down your interests?

In this case you can pick a company where you can try different roles and work in a wider range of projects to get a taste of the different engineering fields. Instead of doing just one placement, you can also do short placements in different companies, for example, during summertime.

“I think it’s really important if you are given the opportunity to enter a company for a short period of time to see as much as the company as possible, and not just the little sector where you are working, so that you can have a better feel of how companies in general work.”

Do you want to focus on a specific engineering field?

If you already know the engineering field you want to specialise and work in the future, you should go for a placement of your preferred engineering field. You can have a look on your future professional engineering institution on the Engineering Council.

“So far the experience has been really good because I always wanted to do it and having this opportunity to experience that, is really satisfying.

What length of placement is best for me?

Do you want to do a short placement? Or a summertime placement?

Get in contact with your University’s Career Services.

You can also look for placement opportunities searching on specialist websites such as:

Do you want to do a Year in Industry?

You might consider doing a gap year during your degree if you want to:

  • Get experience in your field of study before graduating. Employers value work experience when recruiting new candidates.
  • Increase your employment prospects. Many students get a work contract after their placement in the company.
  • Have a break from university and experience the world of work.

The Year in Industry (YINI) scheme provides STEM placements. They provide high-quality, paid placements for students in their gap year before or during their degree course.

“It is meant to be a learning experience year, so you should be able to get a broad range of experience. I worked in lots of different teams, did so many different things, and that was absolutely fantastic.”

“I did it through the Engineering Development Trust ‘Year in Industry Scheme’. I was intending to take a year, anyway, after the university, so why not just take it before? So I took my year and went to find a job on something which I found really interesting and very helpful.”

To which type of company should I apply for?

Choose a company that will enable you to explore your interests, support your learning and future expectations.

Working in a big company you would be able to have the opportunity to work in different departments and projects. Working in a small company you would be able to get a more individualized experience and you will be more likely to have a closer direct management.

Don´t forget to consider salary, travel and accommodation

Ask yourself the following questions and plan ahead.

  • Will my salary be enough to pay for living costs?
  • Am I willing to move in a different city for doing the placement?
  • Can I easily travel there? What’s the public transport like and how much will it cost?

“I think it’s also important to know where you are living. I’ve applied for jobs in Aberdeen, and I am from London. So… I think if I had gone to some of those it would have been a real struggle, because it would have been much a more cut-off and much more difficult. Location is definitely an important thing to take into account.”

“And thirdly, the location. At this age it’s important to be in a nice city, because you need to enjoy your life as well.”

Get prepared

The application process can be complex. Ask for advice in your university’s career services, but be proactive.  You might like to also explore the following resources:

Are you an international student?

Does your placement have VISA requirements? You can explore the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) for more information. Get in contact with your Career Services for advise and support.

During placement


During your placement you have the responsibility to get the most of your experience. Be proactive in seeking out experiences for your level of practice and skills with the support of your placement supervisor at the company.

What can you expect from your university and employer at this stage?

 

Top Tips

  • Be proactive. Use your placement as an opportunity to develop your professional network. Create a LinkedIn profile https://www.linkedin.com/
  • Appreciate that your supervisors have other responsibilities besides you. Be clear, professional and flexible in your dealings with them.
  • Arrange meetings proactively with your supervisors, ensure you have a clear agenda and keep your appointments.
  • Don´t forget to enjoy your life outside placement.

 

How can I get the most of my placement?

Communication

Communication is key. Demonstrate your willingness to work as part of the team and adopt a reflective approach to your learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for feedback as much as possible. 

Reflective skills

Also, reflect on your progress. Writing a log book and or/diary will help you not only to track and gather evidence of your learning, but also to increase your self-awareness and confidence.

Continuous development

Look out for learning opportunities in your company that were not initially expected to occur in your placement. Also, utilize learning opportunities outside the placement. Have you ever thought about learning a new language, or develop your business skills? Employers value your ability to learn new things inside and outside your field of study. Have a look at your university’s free courses or explore online resources such as:

Coursera https://www.coursera.org/

Edx https://www.edx.org/

Develop your professional network

Engage with your colleagues, be part of the team and be open to new learning experiences. Work in as many projects as possible, even if not directly related with your placement learning outcomes. You might enjoy things that you were not initially considering to do. Many students were offered jobs after their placements because of their engagement with the company.

How will I be assessed?

Make sure you know the criteria in advance. What is expected from you? Know your learning outcomes, learning tasks and assessment which you should agree with both your academic and your placement supervisors.

I am struggling with my placement. What can I do?

Seek guidance and support from your placement supervisor to enable you to achieve your learning outcomes.

If the relationship with your placement placement supervisor is not working for any reason, seek help from your university’s academic supervisor.

Work-life balance

Your placement can be a bit daunting in the beginning. You may feel that is all about work and getting yourself stuck in. However, it’s also important to have a good work-life balance.

After placement


Your placement provides you with new learning experiences, knowledge, and skills that will be assessed by your university and valued by future employers.

What can you expect from your university and employer at this stage?

Top Tips

  • Keep in touch with the people you’ve met and worked with.
  • Update your CV. Be proactive and engage with your Careers Service or Professional Institution for support.
  • Share your experience with the next generation of students.
  • Build your language skills. In the global market, knowing more than one language can be a plus.

Assessment

On completion of your placement, ensure that you have submitted all the documents and reports on the due date.

Evaluate the placement itself and prepare for meeting with your personal tutor and placement coordinator. 

Reflect and evaluate your achievements

Look at what you’ve enjoyed the most and benefited from during your placement experience.

How do you assess your skills development? Reflect on what you have achieved and the skills you have acquired to enable this.

Reflect on what have you enjoyed the most, what have you and least, and why.

Your future plans

Write your CV, and give specific examples based on the experience you acquired during your placement.

Contact your Careers Service for individual advise on your future plans.

Think about professional registration

Once you have achieved the necessary qualifications and workplace experience you should apply to your institution to become professionally registered.  Your institution will guide you through the registration process and help you to decide when you’re ready to apply.

Read more on the Engineering Council website.

As you prepare to enter the world of work, it’s critical to align your skills and experience with the needs of the businesses which will look to employ you. Many employers made it plain that undergraduates achieving professional registration as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) and / or ICT Technician (ICTTech) on completion of their year in industry will have a distinct advantage when it comes to finding employment upon graduation.

Read more about the technician professional registration for students on The Institute of Engineering and Technology website.

Share your experience with fellow students

Share your thoughts and experience with your Career Services and fellow students at your university. You can also have a wider impact contacting organisms such as the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) and their dedicated programmes such as My Placement Experience.