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Engineering-focused gap year experiences

Want an engineering-focused gap year experience that will see you gain industry-specific skills and experience? Here’s some info on the options available…

Technician inside a plant Engineering as a subject in its own right is rarely studied until reaching university, so taking a gap year with a focus on engineering can be a great opportunity to get a taste for the field before starting further studies. It can also be a brilliant way for current students to gain some real experience before entering the workplace full-time, as well as really improving a job hunter’s CV.

“A gap year experience may well show you that you have many of the required skills to be successful as an engineer,” explains Mark Tully, managing director of Roevin Engineering Recruitment.

“If you are able to incorporate an engineering aspect into your gap year it demonstrates a clear passion for the industry. In addition to any gap year experience, time in industry during a university course is highly prized by employers as it proves that you can make the important switch from theory to practice. This hands-on experience will, in turn, give you an edge over other candidates,” he explains.

Engineering focused gap years

The best way to get an engineering-focused gap year is to apply directly to companies that offer year long internships. This way you’ll be sure to gain experience in a specific area of interest to you, and if you’re lucky, you could be invited back during future university breaks. Contact several companies in areas that interest you to find out what they offer. A good place to start looking is the IET’s list of accredited professional development scheme providers.

The Year in Industry

One of the most renowned companies to offer engineering focused internships is The Year in Industry (YINI) [new window], which has been placing students for 25 years. For anyone wanting to take a year out to work full-time in the engineering or technology sector this is a must visit organisation.

“Companies choose YINI for the calibre of student and service we provide. Our experience specialising in engineering, science and technology has helped us understand the technical and practical skills students need to develop, therefore exposing them to high quality experience,” enthuses Chris Ward, YINI’s national director.

International volunteering that involves engineering

There are many gap year providers that offer more varied experiences that will still support a future career in engineering and provide you with very useful skills.

“There are a number of gap year programmes that focus on specific skills,” says Emma Jones, author of Gap Years - The Essential Guide. “Some volunteer programmes such as VSO [new window] or Projects Abroad Pro [new window] need people with engineering experience to work abroad.”

With Raleigh International [new window] volunteers can expect to work on community, environmental and adventure projects, many of which involve aspects of engineering.

“During the community projects venturers could be installing gravity-fed water systems in remote Nicaraguan villages, constructing eco-sanitation units in Indian villages or building kindergartens in Borneo,” says Raleigh International’s Lorraine Roadnight.

“The environmental projects could involve transforming a former prison island off the coast of Costa Rica into a wildlife refuge or building elephant-proof trenches in India. As part of the adventure part of the expedition, venturers might trek through challenging landscapes such as rainforests or tea plantations. Or they might end up climbing volcanoes, learning to dive or conserving coral reefs in Borneo. The projects will be determined by the requirements of the communities,” she explains.