Start of main content

December 2016 - Diary of a 40-year-old placement student

It can be easy to assume that placement students will be given the ‘safe jobs’ in so much as they are given tasks isolated from the wider business and that there are no particular deadlines, or no real impact of things not being done. WRONG! What you do really does count and people depend on you getting your job done.

When I talked last month about getting to know staff in departments outside of your own, what I have experienced this month demonstrated to me exactly how much this can pay off. One of the challenges I faced recently involved chasing urgent inspection results from some development testing I had been carrying out. To do this, not only did I have to learn the processes and paperwork involved with submitting the items for inspection in the first place, but due to the urgency of the task I also had to quickly find out who the key people were in each department with the authority to fast track the items through each stage of the process.

The importance of a good working relationship

Having already met several of these people, it allowed me to go and speak to them in person, explaining the reason behind the urgency and ask if they could support a quick turnaround. Thankfully, all the colleagues I spoke to were only too happy to assist, and while I am sure they would have still given a positive response to an email from a random Intern they had never met, I have always found that people are generally more inclined to go the proverbial ‘extra mile’ for someone who they have already met – and crucially – have a good working relationship with.

Writing up a company test report

Once all the test results were back, I then had to get my head around writing up the test report, which has since been sent off to the customer for approval. While engineering students will generally have experience of writing test reports for uni assignments, writing up an official report for a company is a whole different ball game.

Firstly, there will generally be a set format to adhere to, which you will have to familiarise yourself with before you can even get started. Secondly, there is no room for mistakes. No pressure here, but mistakes in official documents can have implications ranging from delays to the customer or to manufacturing through to breaches of contract or even fines to the company and/or criminal prosecutions. Thankfully most large companies (as they do at Moog) have robust internal processes to check all documents before they are released. Finally, depending on the urgency of the report, you will have to get comfortable with chasing colleagues (including managers) for signatures, which – depending on your level of confidence – can seem rather daunting. However, provided you are duly polite while doing it, no one will mind, as they are all aware that you are simply doing your job.

Volunteering for EDT’s Engineering Education Scheme

Also this month, I have been continuing to support pupils from Wednesfield High School with their project for EDT’s Engineering Education Scheme, in which they are looking at producing a quick reference gauge for Moog’s manufacturing engineers to use on the shop floor. This has involved multiple visits to the school, guiding the pupils through the design process, whilst also planning ahead for manufacturing the part and compiling the project report.

By next month’s update, we will have been back to my uni, the University of Wolverhampton, for a two-day practical workshop where the pupils will get the chance to use the workshop facilities to do the bulk of the manufacturing, whilst also getting to experience what university life is like and check out the courses on offer. So expect plenty more on that next time.

Why you should keep a journal

The final thing I have been working on recently is gathering evidence for my university assessment, which I will have to present on completion of my placement, as well as gathering evidence for my IET EngTech application. To do this, I have been keeping a journal of each day’s activities, cross-referencing each task with the EngTech competency criteria on The IET’s Career Manager, all of which also helps invaluably as a memory-jogger for writing these diary blogs!

However, keeping a detailed journal is something I would highly recommend to any placement student, regardless of career path, age or prior experience, as it can be all too easy to forget about the smaller tasks we do, but which all add up and count towards our final degree.

Hopefully, those of you who are considering a placement year have already started making enquiries at your uni and with local companies; while those of you who are still undecided, I do hope this blog is going some way to helping you decide if a placement is something you would consider for yourselves.