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

One of the new things I became involved with recently was a STEM project with Business in the Community, helping facilitate an awareness event at a local high school, designed to promote engineering careers within companies in the local area.

My role there, as a ‘Business Ambassador, was sharing my experiences as an engineer and talking about the transition from education to the workplace, as well as supporting the pupils to complete a series of practical activities. As with my current EES project, these events are not only a great way to encourage new talent into STEM careers, but are also brilliant opportunities developing a range of skills outside of what you would normally learn on an engineering placement.

As for the EES project itself, the pupils are about halfway through manufacturing their reference gauges and are about to tackle the electronics that ensure the gauges will comply with the tight manufacturing tolerances set out in the project brief. They’re also making good headway with the project report, which counts towards a large percentage of the final marking. However, one massive bonus to the pupils is that, through demonstrating their dedication to the project, they have the opportunity to take their work experience week here at Moog, giving them a fantastic insight into a career in a global engineering company, which may encourage them to come back as apprentices, when they finish their A levels.

I have been making good progress with the tests and reports I started last month, as well as getting back to grips with the main test rig I was working on when I started my placement. This has meant prioritising my workload, to ensure adequate time is spent on each project, which as a mature student with a young family, is a skill well practiced over the last few years!

The importance of time management

For those of you considering placements, I cannot stress enough how important good time management is. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in a particular task or project, before realising that other things on your to-do list have suddenly crept up on you, leaving you rushing around at the last minute trying to get everything done on time.

As with any project, whether it is uni assignments, placement jobs or even domestic tasks, spending a little time at the beginning to plan out your work can pay dividends in the long run, provided of course that you regularly review your progress and seek support when needed.

One thing I have managed to achieve this month has not only been a benefit to myself, but will also help the next placement students here. Previously I mentioned a disadvantage of being a placement student as not having my own tool kit and having to borrow tools from colleagues; that has now changed. After a couple of conversations with the relevant managers/team leaders, I have procured a toolbox specifically for placement students to use, which has been a massive help in the Development Lab and has given me experience of completing purchase request forms.

Again, for your own placements, if you can think of things that would benefit not only yourself but those who come after you (and ultimately the business itself), do speak up, as any company who values its staff will be more than willing to listen and implement new ideas if the suggestion is justified.

Approaching the halfway mark

As I am rapidly approaching the halfway point of my placement, I have had to turn my attention to gathering evidence for my uni placement assessment, which will take the form of a written report and end of placement presentation. Following a recent visit from my uni placement supervisor I have been given a copy of the placement assessment criteria; 80 per cent of which is based on the report itself. This brings in a few of the things I have mentioned in previous blogs, as well as the above mentioned time management. Do not underestimate the importance of (or the amount of work involved with) compiling your placement report. My advice here is, start it early!

I have previously talked about keeping a journal of my placement (as well as this diary) and also gathering evidence for my EngTech application. These will be worth their weight in gold when I start writing up my report, as I will not have to try and remember everything I have done throughout my placement. It will all be there, laid out in chronological order, for me to reference as I write.