Mohammed Akbar Hussain is a Mechanical Engineering student who worked as a Test Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) for his placement year. Mohammed decided to do a placement year to gain valuable work experience in his desired career field and to develop his personal and professional skills to improve his employability chances post-graduation. We met with Mohammed to discuss his placement year in further detail.
What was a typical day like at NTCE?
A typical day on placement for me would start with an early morning meeting, which would tend to be a department project review or weekly plan. Following this, I would normally create reports on a test I had carried out or conduct data analysis. The reporting aspect of my placement meant I had to contact various department suppliers or manufacturers to attain all the correct information to input into the reports. The analysis part of my role required a very keen eye and involved me analysing customer complaints then relaying this information to my department so we could improve the quality of the vehicles.
When I wasn’t conducting tests or data analysis, I'd be in the workshop working on a test vehicle or a manager's personal vehicle. I had to evaluate vehicles and determine which parts of the interior trim were creating a concern, which subsequently led to further investigation into the specific part. A full evaluation of a vehicle would easily take up a whole day, as we had to determine the root cause of the concern, suggest a temporary countermeasure and then retest the vehicle to confirm. I had to pass this information onto the relevant engineer, and determine why the concern was evident and decide how the issue could be permanently resolved.
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Evaluating a Nissan GTR. This was a very unlikely event as NTCE only develop vehicles such as Nissan Micra, Leaf, Qashqai, Juke and X-Trail, however as I had previously worked on a Qashqai for this particular manager, he requested if I could evaluate his Nissan GTR. This consisted of a dynamic evaluation which required me to drive on a set route. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as it was such a rare opportunity and more importantly, it highlighted to me the importance of networking. My other highlights are going to Millbrook Proving Ground to carry out extended tests on vehicles and learning how to drive LHD vehicles. This was particularly interesting to me as we did a lot of work on LHD vehicles from around Nissan’s European sites.
Generally, I enjoyed being able to work on the newest makes and models of Nissan’s and knowing the work I did will have made an impact on production of the newer models. Also the scenery at the site was brilliant, as it was a complete contrast to being in the city. Nissan are sponsors of the UEFA Champions League, so outside of work staff have the chance to win tickets to UCL games in the UK. I managed to win tickets to Liverpool vs Man City and also Liverpool vs Roma. This was easily the biggest highlight of the whole year for me as I am a big Liverpool fan!
How do you think your placement year will increase your employability when you graduate?
I believe experience in your field in this day and age is vital and employers will be keeping a keen eye on candidates with experience. I'm sure you've all heard this scenario before but imagine you're at an interview, and you have completed university with a sandwich year and the other candidate has solely studied with no work experience. I think it's easy enough to decide who the employer will choose. Providing you perform well during your placement, you will have landed yourself a shining reference and be able to prove you have all the key traits employers are looking for.
Any advice to prospective students who may be considering a placement year?
If you are already considering a placement then you're in the right state of mind; however, if you aren't, I would highly recommend trying your hardest to secure a placement. It's important you pick a field you'd like to work in as this allows you to gauge the role throughout the whole year as well as potentially other roles, thus allowing you to cement your initial thoughts or maybe re-consider your initial plan. The experience you get is key to you securing a graduate role afterwards, whether it be within the same company or elsewhere - doing a placement year will give you that edge.
Lastly, the year away from University will 100% develop you as a person professionally and personally. It will also help motivate you for your final year of study. From personal experience, even if you're not having much luck in securing a placement, don’t give up - get your CV looked at, get tips on how to get the most out of yourself in an interview/assessment centre and apply as early as possible. You won't regret it!