All posts by MSESheffield

A substantial degree of experience

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.

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A bit about Philips

Being an employee at the HTC and why you should apply

A bit about Philips

My placement was at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, in the south of The Netherlands, with Philips Electronics Nederland B.V. I worked from the 2nd May to the 16th September 2016 as an intern within the Surface Moduli and Interfaces group, under the Philips Innovation Services department.

In general as an intern at Philips I felt well respected and valued within my role by my supervisors and superiors, reflected in the responsibilities I was given. My time at Philips has definitely given my C.V. the facelift it needed for going into my final year, with such a well-respected and recognised company name and the skills gained from the experience.

Philips is a company renowned worldwide for its range of products in such areas as lighting, consumer care and medical equipment. Its history is rich in novel and ground-breaking technology e.g. integrated circuits, international radio transmission, electronic shavers with multiple heads, the compact disc, etc – highlighting what an excellent research and development system has been established over the years.

I know some people have had concerns that they haven’t done any biomaterial modules since first year and whether this would affect their application and capability for Philips. However knowledge in many areas of materials science is inherent to product pioneering at Philips, and for this reason, I doubt you will feel under qualified. If anything I enjoyed getting the chance to explore this aspect of the subject more.

I found it interesting witnessing the extensive variety of simultaneous ongoing projects just within one department. I personally was involved with two completely different research projects; one in the early development stages for a medical product and the other modifying a test-bed for the improvement of other Philips products for consumer care. This may also potentially mean that, if there are several of you going out there, there’ll be the option to pick a particular topic out of a selection, that you’re more interested in.

“The smartest square km in Europe” – Days at The High Tech Campus

Being an employee at the HTC and why you should apply

 “The smartest square km in Europe” – Days at The High Tech Campus

The High Tech Campus is a site for over 135 companies, originally owned by Philips but opened up to other businesses to allow new resource integration and more efficient research. It has been described as “the smartest square km in Europe” with “45,000 mR&D facilities, labs and clean rooms” and “10,000 highly-skilled” employees. All companies at the Campus facilitate the advancement of research, technology and business in similar sectors such as lighting and medical care.

Aside from all these impressive facts, I found it a wonderful environment to work in. ‘The Strip’ is a building in the centre of the Campus I could liken to a Uni’s Students’ Union, with a bank, a hairdressers, a gym, and wide range of restaurants/food outlets. It’s also located right on a lake so you can enjoy your lunch in the sun on the grass/bench and go for a nice stroll before returning to work. Usually swans and ducks were around but on occasion farmers used the grass area for sheep and cows. A thing to note is that any payments on The Strip can only be made by card so, as I mention in the ‘Banking’ post, I recommend you attaining a Dutch bank account.

Another great thing is that you’ll be going for the summer so they’ll probably have the food vans out in an area at the end of The Strip with BBQ burgers and they have a music system set-up by the picnic benches. Several of the vans will also take cash as well as card. Something to note is that if you get hungry early in the day, go to lunch, because once it hits 12:00 the whole HTC employee community descends on The Strip and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a good seat – else of course you can always wait till passed 1.00pm. On the topic of refreshments, there are “coffee corners” at several points the HTC buildings with a fridge, kettle, free English, earl grey and green tea bags and also a free vending machine for coffee!

When you first arrive you’ll have to initially get a visitors badge from Building 37 but then you can go to the badge office in The Strip where you’ll have your picture taken and badge ID printed off then and there. You may also receive some vouchers for places on The Strip like a discounted haircut or a free cookie from AH – I think I used nearly all of mine! With your badge you can also receive discounted access to the Philips Museum woo (It may be free but I think that was just for the 125 year anniversary sorry)! At the end of the placement you’ll have to return this to the badge centre.

For your placement, you will be given a desk area, desktop/laptop, log in username and Philips e-mail. The e-mail system is based on outlook so I would also check you’ve downloaded MicrosoftLync (skype for business). Another tip is to open-close-reopen explorer to get the main Philips homepage up- I don’t know why it doesn’t work first time- from here you can easily access your personal data such as the ‘HR portal’ to confirm your bank details etc.

Clothing wise I’d suggest a good smart casual for your first day so shirt and jeans for guys and maybe black trousers and shirt for girls for example. (H & M do some smart black trouser/jeans for women). But after you’ve made your first impression, the work attire can become more casual. Most of the guys wore a t-shirt and girls summery skirts- just obviously keep in mind and lab work you may have. Some employees around campus will still be in suits but for you, particularly as an intern this isn’t necessarily.

As the HTC is such a large research site located near the Technical University in Eindhoven, it is to be expected that there are many interns working there, including yourselves. You may be interested in getting involved with PIC (Philips Intern Committee) who meet for lunch, sports and drinks on different days every week and also organise events such as bowling and pub quizzes.

Cycle access to the HTC is very easy and there are bike storage facilities under each car park block, one of these definitely has a working bike pump too. Many of us actually locked our bikes in front of our building. I think this is meant for visitors only but no one ever mentioned anything and there was always space spare so wasn’t a major injustice really. There is also a bike repair service on the Campus (opposite P4 I believe), but you’ll want to get the bike to him before 10 if you want it sorted that day as he shuts at 12. You do have to pay for any repairs.

And Just beware that if you’re in HTC 4, the front automatic revolving door can be quite temperamental and you may need to step out and try again. Yes, on my first day I did keep walking once it had stopped without realising and bumped into the glass in front of my supervisor, so alway proceed with caution!

 

Unique experience

Being an employee at the HTC and why you should apply

Unique experience

If you choose to apply for Philips, you can accept that it’s going to be a rather different experience than that of your fellow course mates on placement in the U.K. That not to say it’s a benefit or a disadvantage, just different!

For one it’s likely that several of you who applied will be invited to work at the HTC. I even worked on a project with another course mate, so not every aspect of the placement will be new and you’ll have people to relate to and share the experience with. Personally, I found this an advantage as our year is really close and everyone who went to Eindhoven got along really well, none of us lived alone and we often went to events together. This was also useful for keeping on top of university work and the admin involved with living abroad, having others around you with the same deadlines.

Other things you may find different are that you may just be in a small office with several other interns. I shared one with an Italian biomaterial graduate and two Dutch students from the Tech uni whilst three of the others were next door with a Canadian and Dutch student. It’s a highly international company and I’ve made some great friends from it, I’m even visiting a friend now living in Zurich and another in Rome, both people from Philips, so my options to travel have expanded!

I also found that, although in separate offices, all of us were quite well connected with the supervisors and experts within the Department. At the beginning of the placement we were required to do a small introduction slide about ourselves to the Department and then a full presentation of our work at the end. A department BBQ was held in the courtyard of our work building one evening, and another time several of us went for drinks in town. My supervisor, Steve, was also in a band who covered rock songs and he invited us to several of his gigs which we attended.

The labs we used lined the external perimeter of the building so weren’t incredibly large and most of our projects required access to several of them, which would be different to working in a foundry. Additionally, you may find the work at Philips based more on initial innovative research than other company placements that focus on improving and developed existing systems. But this could mean that you’ll be working towards a new patent – in fact the companies on the campus together make up 40% of all dutch patent applications.

Of course a major difference it that you’ll be living abroad! The Netherlands is such a great place to do this as a flight from Eindhoven to Stansted can cost as little as £13 so visits home aren’t a major inconvenience. You have the option of 5 days off (a day for each month) and I utilised these to explore several cities in the Netherlands and surrounding Europe. So you may find your weekends are busier than your friends, but also there’s cheaper wine and great beer to be drank in the evenings and all the cycling you do too! I really enjoyed having a new cultural experience alongside the work.

Contracts

Being an employee at the HTC and why you should apply

Contracts

Just a heads up about the company contracts you may receive before you leave. We received four;

  • Confirmation internship assignment
  • Internship agreement – the ‘list of agreements’ section will be of particular interest to you stating your income and compensations for rent. You will probably have to send this to your letting agency as proof of your income.
  • Personal Data Form – You won’t have your BSN number yet so you can leave that section blank, see ‘BSN and Stadpas’ post.
  • Payroll Bank Statement Model – we all ticked yes for the section ‘2a, do you wish your employer or your benefits agency to apply the payroll tax deduction?’ As you can reclaim your tax back if you send your BSN number to your ‘admission and payroll specialist’ (the person who sent you the contract). See ‘BSN and Stadpas’ post.

Erasmus and extra funding

Looking after yourself and having fun

Erasmus and extra funding

As the placement is credit bearing, involves full-time work and is undertaken in one of the Erasmus registered countries, you have the option to apply for the Erasmus Training Programme to receive extra funding. The steps and conditions for this will all be explained in your ‘pre-departure talk’ , where you’ll also receive a handout guide. You’ll have to contact the Erasmus department yourself to arrange this, but it’s worth organising it as a group meeting for all of the Materials students going to Eindhoven, so make sure to pick a time you’re all free. There may be larger talks of this kind given, but I think the time of the year (March – April) meant that there wasn’t anyone for us to attend. Although, to be honest, it was useful having a smaller group and talk, with everyone going to the same country and on a ‘training’ placement, for discussion of specific details to our case.

The main forms you’ll have to fill out are the ‘Training Agreement Part 1’ which you have to complete and send to your project supervisor in Holland for them to fill in their relevant section and sign, so make sure you do this in plenty of time before leaving. Once you arrive at Philips you’ll again need your supervisor to sign a ‘Proof of arrival’ form, and finally the ‘Training Agreement Part 3’ at the end of your placement. (‘Training Agreement Part 2’ need only be filled out if there have been any changes from ‘Part 1’.)

After sending the prior two forms you should receive a first instalment (~70%) and then the last payment only once you’re back in England with ‘Part 3’ completed and signed. The amount you receive will depend on the exact duration of your placement (so may be 4 ½ months not 5).

If you are not an E.U. citizen (sorry if you’re British and reading this in 2019) then you’ll need to arrange your visa as soon as possible after your place has been confirmed, to ensure everything is set to go at the beginning of May. It’ll be useful being in England for this process and if you don’t get this arranged quickly then set backs may mean you have to start your placement later than planned.

The University of Sheffield also offer free travel insurance through the programme, which covers emergency medical expenses and the usual travel allowances of baggage lost or flight cancellation etc. .

Additionally, to sign up for the funding we had to take an initial Dutch language test to gauge our level of learning. It is 100% okay to do badly on this because the point is for you to receive free online lessons in Dutch appropriate for your language level. (Many of us just clicked any answer and next, but my English and minimal German did help me qualify for the advanced beginner in vocabulary! So it’s a bit of fun if you have some time to spare).

You can check your eligibility for Erasmus here:  http://www.sheff.ac.uk/erasmus/outgoing/prospective-out/eligibility

The Erasmus process also advises contacting student finance to let them know you are working abroad as part of your degree for further financial support.  They may give you an extra loan or reimburse some of your flight costs. This is known as a travel grant and you should be sent the relevant steps for applying once you have contacted the loans company.

Main checklist points

Before you leave, to do:

❏    set up Erasmus meeting
❏    Erasmus Training agreement Part 1
❏    Housing: search,  signing of contracts, pay deposit
❏    Book flights
❏    Book a hotel for first night?
❏    Have an indian curry (there is a lack of in Eindhoven)

To take with you:

❏    Passport
❏    EHIC
❏    Philips Contracts x4
❏    Housing Contract
❏    Erasmus ‘Proof of arrival’ and ‘Training agreement Part 3’
❏    Birth certificate
❏    U.K Bank details
❏    Sunglasses
❏    Waterproof Trousers
❏    Raincoat

On arrival:

❏    Check inventory of house
❏    Sort out BSN
❏    Sort out Bank account
❏    Find a bike
❏    Any Philips inductions e.g. attaining badge
❏    Go to Keukenhof!!

Coming home:

❏    Sell Bike
❏    Deregister at town hall
❏    Close Bank account/ change final month’s payment details to U.K. account again
❏    Make sure house is all clean and inventory checked! Any repairs mention in advance to leaving date to the letting agency else you may be charged.