1. It’s probably the best thing you can do to improve your CV
Every engineering company needs to know that the graduates they employ will be able to cope with the job. That doesn’t mean you’ll be expected to instantly understand every detail of everything they do or even have worked in a similar company or the same industry (although that’s often a plus).
They just need you to be able to apply the engineering skills and knowledge you’ve gained at university in a real-world environment. The more time you’ve spent demonstrating this through work experience, the better. And a placement is the ultimate example because it also shows that you can handle not just simple tasks but whole projects.
What’s more, it proves you’re already able to make the transition from university life to the workplace, manage a professional workload and get along with colleagues on a long-term basis.
2. It helps build transferable skills
The other reason engineering firms like work experience is that it shows off your non-engineering skills. On an application form or at a job interview, you’ll often be asked to give examples of where you’ve successfully worked in a team, or taken the lead on a project, or demonstrated strong communication abilities.
A work placement will give you a big range of experiences for you to draw on for these examples. Plus they’ll most likely be directly relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for – you won’t have to go the extra mile of showing why your sports team captainship was good practice for leading a team of engineers.
Source: The Graduate Engineer Show
3. It’s a key recruiting tool
Most engineering firms who take on students don’t do so out of kindness: it’s likely they’re using the placements as extra-long job interviews. Some of the big companies will sometimes fill all of their graduate places with former interns, and you won’t know whether they have any additional jobs available until well after the time for placements has passed.
But this can also apply to smaller firms, which are less likely to have big advertising budgets for jobs and for whom hiring the wrong person can be very costly to the business. If they’ve been lucky enough to be approached by a student wanting work experience who then proves their abilities, the company has no need to look elsewhere when a permanent role comes up. In this way, many graduate jobs never even get advertised, so a placement with your ideal firm may be your best route into the company.
4. It lets you find out what you like – and what you don’t
From a student’s point of view, work experience is also invaluable for trying out your career ideas. If you think you like the sound of working in a multinational corporation, a placement gives you the chance to do so with less commitment than a graduate scheme. (Quitting such a programme before you’ve completed it doesn’t make for a good entry on your CV).
Similarly, if you want to find out what working in a manufacturing company is really like, a placement gives you the opportunity. You may love it, or you may realise you’d much rather take up a design role.
And there’s another plus for companies looking at your job application: if you’ve completed a placement then you’ve a good idea of what working in engineering is really like. Therefore, you’re probably less likely to change your mind about the job than someone who’s only ever worked in a bar.
Source: Loughborough University
5. It can improve your academic work
When you’ve finished your placement, you’ll have a better understanding of how engineering principles are applied in the real world – and engineering is all about putting scientific knowledge into practice.
It’s no substitute for academic learning, of course (that’s why you’re at uni in the first place). But practical experience may help you better understand the concepts you’re studying. It can improve the project and group work you do as part of your course. And you may have even learned things you’re later tested on in your exams.
For more placement advice, read our article: 5 tips on acing your year in industry from the UK’s top placement student.