After enjoying his placement with aluminium manufacturer, Arconic, Lewis converted to a part-time degree in BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering and now works for the company whilst completing his studies.
What did you do on your placement year?
I was a process engineer/technical engineer at Arconic, a prestigious aluminium manufacturer. Mainly my job was to improve the processes of the area I was working on, that is, to stream line the manufacturing process through small changes, implementation of systems and machinery improvements. One of the major jobs I took part in was the implementation of a brand new CNC milling machine, in which I was the lead party in enabling the programs for the machine.
What did you enjoy most about the placement?
Getting to see real-life work environments. There are things that you do not realise about work places and there are obstacles you don’t always think about, such as budgets, work schedules and employee compliance. My placement really allowed me to gain confidence in a professional environment and gave me experience talking to part suppliers and work on important engineering projects.
What was the most challenging aspect?
Initially I wasn’t very confident and it took me a few weeks to start diving into things at the workplace. I expected my placement to be very guided and to have a set regime on training, however this was far from the truth. The reality was that there was no strict training regime and since everyone was busy with their own work, I was forced to come out of my shell and take charge of my own work and start looking into improving specific areas. This helped improve my knowledge of specific things at work as well as my ability to cooperate with others.
Why did you choose to do a placement?
I felt that despite all of the projects that we undertake at university, it still cannot accurately simulate real world projects in a professional environment. I knew that in order to get some experience of this I would have to do a placement. I also knew that doing a placement would heavily improve my CV, as having practical work experience, especially with a prestigious company, drastically improves your chances of gaining employment after graduation; employers like to see someone that has experienced real life working conditions. A side bonus is that I was paid a salary, meaning I could quit my part time job as I was actually earning more money from my placement.
Why did you do your placement at your chosen company?
My company are a prestigious aluminium manufacturer, meaning that they have a big impact on the engineering world, as their material is used within Airbus and Ferrari. Gaining experience within this environment would be very beneficial as they have many professionals you can connect with and learn from, not to mention industrial equipment that most people have never interacted with before. This along with the fact that it was very accessible to me (living within a short driving distance) made it a fantastic placement for me specifically.
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Have you been offered any further opportunities by the company after your placement?
Yes, after working on some engineering projects with the engineering department on site, they offered me a job training to be a mechanical engineer on their site. I was allowed to convert my full-time degree (in which I’d completed two years) into a part-time degree. This means that I now work four days a week as a training mechanical engineer, and also am in the process of completing my degree and earning money and experience while I do so.
Do you have any advice on applications, interviews or the placement year?
Apply for a lot of placements, even ones that you may not want specifically, as long as it is related to your field of study as the placement opportunities are very competitive and there is a good chance that many schemes will have people who have more experience than other students. I believe I personally applied to over 30 placements until I obtained this one, so just keep looking and looking, connect on Linkedin, spread word of mouth to any family or friends, as this can lead to more potential opportunities. In fact, I didn’t actually find my placement by myself; my girlfriend’s, cousin’s husband saw a post on Linkedin, which had been shared by someone he went to uni with, and this person shared the original post as she had worked for the company herself. Despite this being a long chain of connections, I most likely would not have found my placement without spreading the word, so it is important to do everything possible to find as many opportunities as you can.