Engineering the right career path with work placements

A year spent working in industry makes a sandwich course an attractive prospect for many degree students. Secure the right placement and job hunting could take care of itself

Thursday 28 April 2016 16:39
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It’s a no-brainer for any undergraduate: studying pays off more than partying.

But few freshers appreciate the importance of working hard in their first year more than sandwich course students such as Lawrence Dubey. For them, the proof of the pudding lies in the quality of their work placement – and great work placements make promising futures.

“First-year results are the linchpin for everything that follows,” says Lawrence, who will soon graduate with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering (MEng) from the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol).

“When I got to uni I told myself: ‘I am going to get my head down and get a first’.

“You apply for placements during the second year of your course so first-year marks are all you have to go on. I knew I wanted a really good grade.”

Choosing books over beer can prove tricky at times, but maintaining his keen sporting interests helped Lawrence strike the right balance between study and socialising.

Citing “an element of luck” alongside a plentiful supply of midnight oil, his third-year placement with world-class engineering, training and technical support services company, Babcock, led to him being offered a graduate training scheme place within the FTSE 100 business.

“When you’re 17 and applying to university you don’t really know what’s out there, but going on placement gives you a real taste. It lets you know that you actually want to do the job you are studying for,” he explains.

“I really liked doing engineering and enjoyed being in a working environment. I’ve always liked the military and the Royal Navy in particular, which is why I know that a career in naval defence engineering is for me.”

It was on his year out that Lawrence first heard about the UK Naval Engineering, Science and Technology scholarships and was encouraged to apply. Not only was he successful the first time around but he was also awarded £3,000 funding for a second consecutive year; an unexpected bonus on top of such a positive placement experience.

“The scholarships were a great help and I got to meet some very influential people including the head of BAE Systems Naval Ships. Currently I like the technical side of engineering – doing metrics and accounts and design – but that helped me see what I might hopefully achieve in 30 years’ time.”

With his first step on the career ladder already secured, Lawrence is spared the pressure of job hunting while he completes his degree. Within weeks of submitting his thesis he will begin work at Devonport Dockyard and by the end of Babcock’s four-year graduate scheme will be a fully fledged chartered engineer having learned the skills of his chosen profession at the heart of the UK’s leading naval support business.

“No matter how much help you get with writing a CV, you still need good things to put in it,” he concludes.

“My advice to anyone researching degree choices is that choosing the right course at the right university is only part of the story. What really matters is applying yourself from the start.”

This content was written and controlled by the University of the West of England

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