Name: Steve Oliver
University: Universityof Hertfordshire
Degree: BEng (Hons) Sandwich Degree in Aerospace Systems Engineering
Work Experience:Virgin Atlantic Engineering – Undergraduate Engineer. Virgin Atlantic Engineering won the ‘Over 250 Employees – long term placements 4-12 Months’ Category at the 2007/08 National Council for Work Experience Awards.
Why did you decide to do work experience? I felt that an industrial placement can carry a lot of weight on a CV, perhaps even more so than a Masters in Engineering. It was important for me to gain real work-place experience so I had an idea of what to expect after my studies. I instinctively knew that Virgin Atlantic’s placement would be right for me. I had decided to do a placement fairly late on in my second year, but everything with Virgin seemed to ‘fall into place’ really well.
What did you actually do? During my time at Virgin I worked within four departments – Acquisitions, Reliability, Cabin Development, and Avionic Development. I worked as an office based engineer who was technically involved in the entire Virgin Atlantic fleet, as part of teams that looked after lease contacts, aircraft component reliability and fleet maintenance optimisation, upper class cabin design and development, as well as looking after all avionic equipment on board the aircraft.
What do you think you gained from your work placement? I found my entire placement enjoyable, but I particularly benefited from seeing the realisation of my work progressing from conception to inclusion on the aircraft. Virgin’s placement allows students to see and work in a wide range of places within the engineering department, which means you are constantly learning. For instance, I gained a lot of general industry knowledge that I will be able to build on during my career. I believe that for the first few years of my career, I will be an extra year ahead in terms of ability, knowledge and understanding as a result of this industrial placement.
Were there any downsides? Adjusting to the difference between university and working life was challenging, both at the beginning of my placement and when I returned to university. On the whole though, I found the experience very rewarding and would definitely recommend it to other students.
What do you need to make a success out of work experience? I found that self motivation, time management, communication skills, and a desire to succeed are essential. A placement should not be seen as a gap year, you need to be prepared to work hard, and the company expects you to do this, as with all members of staff.
What advice would he give other graduates contemplating work experience? I wondered what benefits I would gain from it, but now I feel it was the most productive year of my university studies, and would recommend it to anyone who finds themselves with the opportunity to take up a work experience placement. A placement year provides the opportunity to see all of your previous studies in action, and all studies following can be applied to the real situations encountered in industry, equipping you with a much wider scope and better understanding of the subject areas than people who have not completed a placement.