For an engineering undergraduate, a high standard of academic understanding from lectures and examinations will lay the solid foundation for any relevant job. But more importantly, in addition to this, a short term placement within a company provides the opportunity for interactive learning and skill practise, that will strengthen your abilities within a future position. For me it challenged the skills I’d established in a university environment to a further level. For example, technical communication with employers and colleagues of different degree backgrounds and company roles, compared to that with familiar lecturers and students within the same field.
Future employers look for this experience to gauge your level of adaptability, professionalism, logic and efficiency of solving problems, and teamwork etc. The training and knowledge you gain could set you above other candidates.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you perform well on your placement you may be offered a job after you graduate, but also meeting outer interns and employees may provide great networking opportunities.
The value of a placement has been recognised within the University of Sheffield, and implemented into the Materials Science and Engineering course as two compulsory credit bearing modules. These modules require undergraduates, enrolled on the MEng industrial degree, to undertake a five-month industrial placement, bridging their third and fourth year. In my opinion this is an ideal amount of time for skill development and experience as an engineer employee. A year in industry may seem like quite a long time out of studious education to return back to, and with a typical three-month placement you may not be allowed as much responsibility and involvement in projects due to the time restriction.
The Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Sheffield has a great network of connections with potential companies for placement opportunities. Over the past three years around 250 companies have received students for the module, ranging from automotive to nuclear, forgings to biomaterials, demonstrating the extensive variety of opportunities for a materials engineer. These companies have also ranged greatly in location (nationally and internationally) and on a business scale.
Additionally, at Sheffield, there is always support for students if they want their C.V looked over and cover letters reviewed for improvements and advice.
Above all I believe a lot of the students in my year had fun on their placements, in and out of work, living in new cities and building connections with others. They have definitely found that the experience provided an insight into daily life in industry research, and the potential roles they could take on in the future. I definitely feel this experience helped me become a better engineer for my final year of uni and prepared me for industrial employment.