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August 2017 - Diary of a 40-year-old placement student

With only a couple of weeks of my placement left, this is to be my last diary entry, and as such, it feels an appropriate time to reflect on the last 12 months.

Looking back over my placement, I can honestly say that this has been the best part of my degree course so far, as I have learnt far more that I could ever have anticipated.

During those first couple of weeks getting to grips with a new company, new paperwork and processes (not to mention all the acronyms), I remember being slightly overwhelmed by the amount of new information laid out in front of me; a bit like having an entire year’s worth of lecture material spread out on your desk. However, over the next few weeks, things quickly started to slot into place. I suppose that being a mature student and having already spent many years in the workplace helped me settle in to my new environment much quicker than I would have done otherwise; meaning that I only had the ‘engineering’ to learn, rather than how to conduct myself in a professional environment.

Applying theory to real-world situations

Once I had the first couple of months under my belt and was working much more hands on, I was getting the opportunity to apply some of the theory from my lectures to real-world situations, which really helped consolidate my understanding and enabled me to think more systematically about problems, rather than just focus on one aspect at a time.

As the original plan for my placement was to spend the first six months with the commercial aircraft team, before moving over to the military aircraft team, I remember feeling somewhat conflicted as this milestone approached. Despite being sure I would have enjoyed working on a new range of projects, it was coming at a time when I was becoming more established in my role and was making some really good progress on my current projects, as well as feeling much more of an integrated part of my team.

Thankfully, as this had been noticed by my line manager, it was decided that it would be more beneficial for the company, as well as myself, to stay in my current role for the remainder of my placement.

Making plans

Whether it is down to being more deeply immersed in my work or the fact that the new academic year is fast approaching, the second half of my placement seems to have absolutely flown past. As I write this, I have already been making plans for my final year project and going back over last year’s lecture material. In addition to this, I still have my final placement report to complete and submit, which will count towards the classification of my final degree.
One thing I am looking forward to when I return to university is catching up with my fellow students and hearing all about their placement experiences and seeing how the year in industry may have influenced their future career plans. Thinking back to my fellow students who neglected to take on the placement year, I am left wondering how they are getting on now that they have graduated and are attempting to secure gainful employment without the benefit of the placement experience on their CV.

I certainly wish them well and hope that they all secure the careers they aim for, but I do wonder how they will fare, when competing with applicants who have that extra year under their belts.

As for my own career plans, I have a little bit of news, which If there was ever any vindication or justification of adding the extra 12 months onto my degree, this is it…

Drum roll please!

…when I return to university next month, I will be doing so on a part-time basis, as I have just been offered a full time position with Moog Aircraft Group, to commence straight from the end of my placement!

When I left my previous career and returned to education, I did so with the express intent of securing the best job possible, in an industry that would allow me to provide a better future for my family, and it has paid off with the best outcome I could have hoped for.

The many, many benefits of undertaking an engineering placement year
So, as I leave you and start the next chapter of my new career, while I cannot guarantee that every student will come out of a placement with a direct job offer, what is certain is this. Not only will you vastly improve your skills and knowledge, develop a greater understanding of what it is like working in industry and help shape your future career choices, you will also get the opportunity to make some valuable industry contacts and make a good impression on potential future employers. Employers who, in a year or two, may be keen to keep an eye out for you when shortlisting for job interviews...