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Topic Title: How to get relevant engineering work experience?
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Created On: 31 August 2012 09:34 PM
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 25 June 2013 06:16 PM
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PADAVIES

Posts: 41
Joined: 26 July 2002

You might be interested to read the IET's Skills and Demand in industry report which is due to be published on the 26th June. This outlines the results of our annual survey of 400 companies from all engineering sectors (look in the resources/factfiles web area). Again it shows that there is a demand for engineers and IT professionals and that a significant proportion of companies report problems finding the people they need. Your 6th form students might wish to consider the skills gaps reported by employers, many of which could be overcome by work placements, work experience etc.

There is a lot more in the report including future recruitment plans, training trends, women in engineering and the aging engineering workforce.

Regards,
Paul

-------------------------
Paul Davies
Manager, Policy Dept.
Institution of Engineering and Technology.
 26 June 2013 07:59 AM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: amillar
But, as mentioned before, if anyone here knows a way that a STEM education consultant can earn a living wage doing it please let me know, as I would be delighted to become one!


The information was provided to me by a member of the Taxpayer's Alliance as part of a package about government spending on consultancy services. I have no idea exactly who these paid STEM consultants are or how the government has found them. They might not have anything to do with the IET.

Which takes us back to the thread: on Wednesday I will be conducting mock interviews with sixth formers interested in going into engineering, it will be interesting to see if they appreciate the value of work experience. When I did this last year it was striking how several of those who took part had no idea that it was so important.


Will these interviews be videoed and made available as a learning resource?
 26 June 2013 03:35 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: jencam
Will these interviews be videoed and made available as a learning resource?

Absolutely not; because of the very honest feedback discussion we have, they are confidential between us, the student and their tutor. Anyway, it's hard enough organising these interviews as it is. (Remember: because there is no money available we do this unpaid in our own (or for some lucky people their company's) time!!!!)

I'm sure there must be such resources available on video already.


Very good day, although it did emphasise yet again how little sixth form students really know of careers in engineering - at least I can feel I've helped a handful of them in a small way. What we need of course is the government to employ far more consultants to go into schools to talk to the students about this

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 27 June 2013 02:07 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: PADAVIES
Your 6th form students might wish to consider the skills gaps reported by employers, many of which could be overcome by work placements, work experience etc.

Paul, I didn't actually see your post before I went in, but this is a point I always make anyway. One of the interesting discussion points in the interviews was making sure that the candidates understood the balance required between academic and industrial education/training, which actually they did all have a pretty good idea about, and most had some sort of plan to address it.

I just wish I could be more optimistic that they would actually find companies to offer such experience (of course I kept my feelings about this to myself). It's all very well for companies to complain about skills gaps, but they need to ensure that they are offering as much support/training/experience opportunities to close these gaps as they can - nobody else is going to do it!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 27 June 2013 at 02:16 PM by amillar
 29 June 2013 10:40 AM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: amillarWhat we need of course is the government to employ far more consultants to go into schools to talk to the students about this.


A friendly engineer says that if you want to reach out to youngsters nowadays then do so through iPhone apps. There is no reason why industry can't do this. Why rely on governments for everything?
 29 June 2013 11:21 AM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
What we need of course is the government to employ far more consultants to go into schools to talk to the students about this.

Instead of yet more consultants what we actually need is some engineers to do some voluntary work and put something back into an area from which they themselves have gained so much. As you show very well, you do not need to be paid to go have a chat with school children and offer them an insight into the world of engineering.

I used to help my tutor out doing a simlar thing until he passed away. He worked for a university and undertook this off his own back. The company I work for take on interns to give work experience etc., it is not difficult. As I see things the overall majority are more than happy to continually take and live their own lives and yet complain when things are not the best. Many of those same majority do nothing more than take and complain rather than channeling some positive input back into the society they are a part of.

You set a good example, so fair play to you.

Regards.
 30 June 2013 11:16 AM
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amillar

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Obviously (at least I thought it was obvious) I was being tongue in cheek with that comment, but actually there is a serious point behind it.

I have given up hundreds of hours and a spent a large amount of money on supporting STEM education over the last 13 years. Now obviously that was my choice, and I don't regret it because I've had a lot of fun and learnt a lot.

But why should we expect engineers to do that? They "put something back" every day by doing their jobs. Are we a profession or an amateur club? We are in this barmy position where people are paid to run extra curricular sports activities for children to have better leisure time, but won't pay for people to run engineering enhancement activities for children to be able to go on to support UK PLC. (Actually that's not quite true, there are people being paid to do this, but they are almost all ex-teachers rather than ex-, or even better practising, engineers.)

I have been very heavily involved in the past in trying to recruit engineers into the STEM ambassador scheme over many years, and the biggest resistance with recruiting those we need, the excellent early career engineers, is that they are also likely to be juggling handling rising in their profession, probably starting a family, and trying (if they have any sense) to have some time to themselves. Unless companies or the government will start supporting this to allow such volunteers to balance their lives we will continue to struggle to find the people we need.

I would like to recognise those companies (3M has been a shining example, but I know there are many others) who give their staff time off to support this work.

But for the other companies - if you can't find the skills you want, don't whinge or wait for someone else to sort out, do something about it. If every company in the UK gave each of its engineers just one paid day off a year to go into a school I am sure it would have a huge impact.

Sorry for rant - I know you were trying to be positive. It is just very frustrating seeing so much that needs to be done, and so little serious industry involvement.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 30 June 2013 at 11:23 AM by amillar
 30 June 2013 11:32 AM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: jencam
Originally posted by: amillarWhat we need of course is the government to employ far more consultants to go into schools to talk to the students about this.

A friendly engineer says that if you want to reach out to youngsters nowadays then do so through iPhone apps. There is no reason why industry can't do this. Why rely on governments for everything?

OK, since I obviously need to explain this, by I mean I I am making an ironic comment referring back to your anti-government spending bias. It is a JOKE, and should not be taken in any way as a policy statement or manifesto commitment by any person living or dead.

Phew, sometimes discussion forums are hard work!

By the way, my views are entirely personal and in no way are intended to represent those of the IET.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 30 June 2013 06:45 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: amillar
But for the other companies - if you can't find the skills you want, don't whinge or wait for someone else to sort out, do something about it. If every company in the UK gave each of its engineers just one paid day off a year to go into a school I am sure it would have a huge impact.

Well, there's a coincidence, just come across this:
IET report: Employers struggling to get staff but need to much more to fix the problem

In particular:
Prof Andy Hopper CBE, IET President, said: "Companies tell us that they are recruiting for business expansion and diversification. This will be put in jeopardy if they cannot encourage engineers to join them. Our skills survey shows that many of the UK's engineering employers are suffering from engineering skills gaps, shortages and an ageing workforce, and this will only get worse in the future when huge numbers of engineers and technicians are forecast to be needed for new infrastructure and energy projects.
"There are many actions that could and are being taken in schools, with careers advice and in further and higher education that would make a difference. The IET and the engineering institutions are playing their role in promoting the profession to students, parents and the government.
"There are some very good examples of companies getting involved in local schools and working with colleges, but our report indicates a large minority of companies who do nothing. They know they will have difficulty recruiting the engineers they need but expect someone else will sort it out for them.
"You wouldn't leave it to chance to provide the materials, finance or machinery that you need. Why hope someone else will supply your most important asset that is your people?"


[This post edited to delete comment after reading report more carefully. ]

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 30 June 2013 at 08:02 PM by amillar
 30 June 2013 09:26 PM
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jencam

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The same engineer has also said that a big difference between engineering and other professions - including medicine, nursing, and teaching - is that there is no clearly defined route of entry with clearly established junior positions to accommodate recently qualified engineers. In other professions a clearly defined route of entry and junior positions for those recently qualified effectively eliminates the work experience requirement that engineering companies ask for. In some professions such as medicine or law it is not actually possible to undertake work experience apart from as an assistant position such as a secretary to a doctor or a lawyer.

SMEs dominate British engineering industries nowadays and many of them operate a closed shop mentality where they rarely employ people that existing staff don't personally know. More often than not finding a job in engineering is more a case of who you know rather than what you know or what your qualifications are. The engineer is of the opinion that a youngster who is neither from an engineering nor a medical background will find it easier to become a doctor than an engineer simply because of a clearly defined route of entry into a profession that is historically experienced in accepting outsiders into it. Large engineering companies offer graduate schemes and may be more welcoming to outsiders but are not always immune from the closed shop mentality which pervades SMEs.

There is no real easy solution to this problem. The engineer suggests the establishment of guilds where existing engineers can meet up with each other and also enable them to get to know people from outside. He doesn't think much of STEM initiatives in schools because they are intended to promote engineering to children who otherwise are not interested or aware of it in an entertaining way rather than by providing real help and support to children who are seriously interested in it, which is what he sees as being far more important.
 11 July 2013 11:38 AM
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amillar

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I was struggling to retain enthusiasm for this thread, but since these answers may help others here goes...

Originally posted by: jencam
The same engineer has also said that a big difference between engineering and other professions - including medicine, nursing, and teaching - is that there is no clearly defined route of entry with clearly established junior positions to accommodate recently qualified engineers. In other professions a clearly defined route of entry and junior positions for those recently qualified effectively eliminates the work experience requirement that engineering companies ask for. In some professions such as medicine or law it is not actually possible to undertake work experience apart from as an assistant position such as a secretary to a doctor or a lawyer.

True. This is a big and well known problem for the engineering profession.

SMEs dominate British engineering industries nowadays and many of them operate a closed shop mentality where they rarely employ people that existing staff don't personally know. More often than not finding a job in engineering is more a case of who you know rather than what you know or what your qualifications are.

Again very true, but probably not for the reasons you imagine. Recruitment is expensive and time consuming, so if you can find someone you already know to do the job it can save a huge amount of time and expense. If I want to buy a second hand car I could scour the country for the one I want, but if a friend of mine is selling a car that is good enough I am likely to buy it from him. It's no different. The similarities carry on when you consider recruitment risk: would I rather buy a second hand car from a faceless showroom who are trying to trun a quick buck, or one where I actually know a bit about its history? The same in recruitment, yes I would trust a known fellow engineer who recommends one of his ex-colleagues more than I would trust a sharp-suited recruitment executive who doesn't know the difference between AutoCad and schematic capture experience*.

This isn't specific to engineering: any advice on recruitment always says network, network, network.

The engineer is of the opinion that a youngster who is neither from an engineering nor a medical background will find it easier to become a doctor than an engineer simply because of a clearly defined route of entry into a profession that is historically experienced in accepting outsiders into it. Large engineering companies offer graduate schemes and may be more welcoming to outsiders but are not always immune from the closed shop mentality which pervades SMEs.

You need more evidence to make this statement. I have never been asked at interview about my background, and would never ask about it. Any recruiter would be on very dodgy ground legally to do so since it is not related to the job. I think this person who is advising you may again be a bit confused; yes, if your parents are engineers you are more likely to feel at home in the engineering world - again that's true for any occupation. But be careful not to muddle cause and effect here.

* Sorry to raise that yet again, but I get really fed with explaining this not just once, but EVERY time...

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 14 July 2013 10:50 AM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
Phew, sometimes discussion forums are hard work!

Maybe you need to work on your communication skills!

Regards.
 14 July 2013 12:31 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
Recruitment is expensive and time consuming, so if you can find someone you already know to do the job it can save a huge amount of time and expense. If I want to buy a second hand car I could scour the country for the one I want, but if a friend of mine is selling a car that is good enough I am likely to buy it from him. It's no different.

So presumably before going on vacation you ask your friend where he/she goes and then if it is any good you simply go there, rather than look around for something you think would be the best of what is available, of all that is available?

It is different and we should understand that. I hardly think we would be scouring the country for our car and instead would go to a reputable dealer and buy something with a guarantee. I accept that sometimes it can be ok to buy from a friend but that is not always the case. So for me instead of just looking at the option my friend has I would go to a reputable dealer and look at those options also. I would not visit every garage in the country because that would be a little over the top but I would spend a little time checking also that what my friend was offering was the best deal.

Yes there can be good reasons to see the person our fellow engineer suggests but equally there can be good reasons to also open the job up and see if there are other engineers available who bring more to the table. I think it depends on the job and what is required and we always need to be aware of the negatives and positives in each method of recruitment and try to select the best one for the task in hand.

Regards.
 14 July 2013 02:52 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: westonpa
So presumably before going on vacation you ask your friend where he/she goes and then if it is any good you simply go there, rather than look around for something you think would be the best of what is available, of all that is available?

Yes, I have certainly done that (in fact will be going away soon using precisely that method). If a friend of mine enthusiases about a great place they've been to, why not use that information?
It is different and we should understand that. I hardly think we would be scouring the country for our car and instead would go to a reputable dealer and buy something with a guarantee. I accept that sometimes it can be ok to buy from a friend but that is not always the case. So for me instead of just looking at the option my friend has I would go to a reputable dealer and look at those options also. I would not visit every garage in the country because that would be a little over the top but I would spend a little time checking also that what my friend was offering was the best deal.

If you are keeping half an eye on the market all the time (which any responsible recruiting manager should be doing) you end up with a pretty good feel for this. Anyway, a guarantee from a car dealership is typically as useful as a guarantee from a recruitment agency!
Yes there can be good reasons to see the person our fellow engineer suggests but equally there can be good reasons to also open the job up and see if there are other engineers available who bring more to the table. I think it depends on the job and what is required and we always need to be aware of the negatives and positives in each method of recruitment and try to select the best one for the task in hand.

Of course. But coming back to where this started, many managers have pretty good networks and are going to use them if they can to fill the simple positions, and it is naive of job seekers to either pretend that this isn't happening or to try to claim that this is somehow unfair or immoral. (It is at worst amoral.)

The critical point is that companies these days tend not to have personnel departments to handle recruitment, best practice is seen to be for the manager to do this themselves with some functional support from HR. (I'm not saying this is right or wrong, it just is.) Given that engineering managers are trying to manage engineering, recruitment has to be squeezed in around the day-to-day work, which basically means it has to be done as quickly as possible. Yes, it would be great for managers to have several weeks off to talk to agencies, sort through CVs, interview 20 candidates, and weigh up all the pros and cons of each. But it doesn't happen in SMEs, and I suspect (from talking to other employers) that it doesn't happen much in the bigger companies either.

So for anyone looking for a job, you have to play the game...

And, again, if anyone out there is looking for a post, there are plenty of books and websites that will give basically the same advice but with far more assistance as to what the rules and tactics of this game are!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 14 July 2013 07:06 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: amillar
True. This is a big and well known problem for the engineering profession.


It also makes it questionable as to whether engineering is a profession in reality or is just a skilled trade. Would it be realistically possible to have a clearly defined route of entry and junior positions that require minimal work experience in engineering?

This isn't specific to engineering: any advice on recruitment always says network, network, network.


This is only achievable if facilities to network are available. The establishment of guilds for specific areas of engineering would be an ideal solution in theory as it would enable outsiders to easily contact practising engineers as well as being a useful tool for recruitment. However do practising engineers want to join guilds and network or are they too shy or want to spend their time outside of work with their families? There is also the issue of security and confidentiality for engineers who work in sensitive industries.

You need more evidence to make this statement.


It is only one person's opinion and it may not be 100% true in general.

I have never been asked at interview about my background, and would never ask about it. Any recruiter would be on very dodgy ground legally to do so since it is not related to the job.


Interviewers can ask about almost anything. I have been asked quite a fair share of impertinent and nosey questions about my outside life in job interviews that I didn't consider to be relevant to the job. It's probably all down to risk management like finding employees who fit in with the culture and the ethos of the company, or do not engage in outside activities that could make them a liability to the company.

A person's background is often viewed as a strong influence on them and shapes their views and outlook. Would a British defence contractor with a friendly relationship with Israel want to employ an engineer who is married to an active member of an Islamic organisation involved in jihad in Yemen or Afghanistan that engineers it own weapons? Would a headteacher of a primary school where less than half the children are white be happy and confident to employ a teacher who's father is a prominent figure in the local branch of the National Front?

Interviewers have also been known to reject candidates because they live in bad neighbourhoods or come from a low social class family.
 15 July 2013 08:30 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
The critical point is that companies these days tend not to have personnel departments to handle recruitment, best practice is seen to be for the manager to do this themselves with some functional support from HR. (I'm not saying this is right or wrong, it just is.)

Interesting point. Of course each manager and company must use the methods they think are the best, after all it is their business. I accept that it can be very useful to recruit friends of trusted colleagues but equally there can be a negative side to it and so it should not be the only method used. Ultimately I would think that it comes down to the ability of the recruiter and if they are good at their job then whichever method they use they will get the best person, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Regards.
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