Start of main content

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

So, with the second month now under my belt, I am pleased to say that I have plenty to report. When I last left you, I had just started to get my head around the various acronyms and had been able to get my hands on some of the hydraulic test units. Well, those first tentative few weeks do seem like a very long time ago now.

Since then things have stepped up massively and am feeling much more like an integrated part of the team rather than a bolt-on extra. But more about that in a minute…

The structure of my placements

Firstly, I have a little more detail for you on how my placement is to be structured. When I started, all I knew was that I would be spending six months in the commercial aircraft department and six months in military. However, I now know that, to give me the broadest range of exposure, while in commercial I will be working mainly on systems engineering and development, whereas in military, I am likely to be doing more design and stress analysis. This way, not only do I get to have a decent taster of each discipline, but should anyone at Moog want to employ me later on down the line (fingers crossed), they would have a good idea as to where I would be best suited.

But for now, back to the tasks at hand. As mentioned, things have really stepped up and, not only am I feeling much more like a part of the team, but I am now much more autonomous; having daily/weekly tasks and ongoing projects to work on. One of these is being responsible for running, monitoring and maintaining the large test rig that I had only operated under supervision last month.

Getting to grips with paperwork

Alongside this, as well as supporting other colleagues with the running of their test rigs, I have been getting to grips with the various bits of associated paperwork (quality inspection documents, test procedures/reports, engineering change orders, etc.) and having my first document sent out to a customer for approval.

Pros and cons of being a placement student

One advantage I have noticed about being a placement student is that, even in this short time, I seem to have had exposure to many more parts of the business than other long-standing staff. I presume that, as their roles are generally pretty well defined, a stress engineer would rarely have cause to go down to goods dispatch, or for a design engineer to have to contact the tool shop.

This exposure is definitely something that other graduates would miss out on if they came in straight into a defined role, especially as (from what I have observed) the most highly regarded engineers are the ones who have the best awareness of, and as such relationship with, the other departments around them.

For the sake of balance, one slight disadvantage of being a placement student, has been not having my own tool kit in the development lab, and having to borrow tools from various colleagues. However, this is more down to me having been used to working out of my own toolbox; and anyway, everyone I have asked has been more than happy to lend a spanner here and a socket set there, provided they are returned when finished with, of course.

‘Extracurricular’ opportunities

On a slightly different note, I have also been given the opportunity to do a couple of things outside of the regular placement role. With this month seeing the launch of a regional STEM event where local high schools partner with engineering companies to solve real engineering problems, as an existing STEM Ambassador I was asked to be the main link between Moog and Wednesfield High School, going out each week to support pupils with their project, which I am really looking forward to.

As well as this, I was even able to bring my teenage daughter into work with me for her high school ‘Industry Day’, which she absolutely loved, and which presumably got her pretty decent playground bragging rights… “What did you do yesterday?” “Oh, you know… just spent the day in a global aerospace company, working on parts for multimillion pound aeroplanes!”

Having now had chance to settle into my placement role and do a bit of reflection, taking the placement year option and putting the extra effort in to secure my first choice company was definitely the best thing I could have done. The theory and formulas we learn at uni are all very important, as they create the foundation of our engineering knowledge, but in my opinion, there is nothing like hands-on experience to put it all in to context.

Don’t leave it too late to arrange a placement

So, if you’ve just started your second year, now is the time to plan your own placement year, and don’t delay, as many of the best opportunities get snapped up fast. For now, I’m off to make the most of this opportunity and I’ll see you back here next month.