Unfortunately, engineering companies aren’t exactly leading the pack when it comes to offering work experience opportunities, but there a number of opportunities out there.
Insight days & shadowing…
The bulk of insight days and events tend to be aimed at sixth form students, and the engineering industry doesn’t seem to have insight days on the same scale as, say, companies in the banking and finance sector. However, it is worth getting in touch with an institution relevant to your area of engineering, e.g. the Institute of Structural Engineers or the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, to see what careers events they hold for engineering students. These events can be excellent places to network and, hopefully, wrangle yourself some work experience.
Alternatively, shadowing is a great way to get engineering work experience with companies that might not usually take on work experience students, such as small and medium-sized enterprises.
First year engineering work experience…
One up from shadowing is gaining work experience in your first year at university. Work experience opportunities for first years usually last between one and two weeks. There are a limited number of opportunities with big companies (they tend to focus on offering work experience for penultimate students). Otherwise, it’ll be up to you do the hard graft and speculatively apply for work experience with a range of organisations.
You don’t necessarily have to focus solely on engineering companies. For example, you might want to use your summer holiday to do some voluntary work, part-time work or perhaps find work experience outside of the engineering industry. It’s a ripe time to start preparing for industrial placement or summer internship applications in your penultimate year.
Yearlong engineering placements…
Of course, if you want to gain some heavy duty engineering work experience, you can’t do much better than an engineering industrial placement. You might do one as part of a sandwich course, or, if it’s not a compulsory part of your course, it’s worth getting in contact with your university department to see if you can do one. You’ll have to be quick out of the blocks if you want a yearlong engineering placement, as many engineering companies start recruiting in the autumn term.
Have a look at our engineering employer A-Z as a starting point to find companies that might offer engineering industrial placements. You should also get in contact with your university careers service or placement office, as they might have a list of companies offering placements.
Engineering summer placements & extended engineering internships…
If you don’t want to do an industrial placement, engineering summer placements are a very good option. Why? Because firms often recruit a large chunk of their graduate intake from these schemes. Not only that, but they are an excellent way of getting some intensive work experience under your belt. Better still, some companies even offer to sponsor students for their remaining time at university.
Where can I find engineering work experience?
Of course, it’s all very well knowing about the different types of work experience, but how can you actually get some? The majority of the big companies will be recruiting in the autumn, with deadlines for their schemes ending around January or later. Even if you’re applying to SMEs or medium-sized engineering firms, it’s always best to start looking for work experience at least six months before you want to do it, and preferably earlier.
You can try our list of the big engineering employers to check out their work experience opportunities and, of course, have a look at our internships and placements jobs board. Another good place to start is your university’s careers service, which might have links with local engineering companies or a list of work experience opportunities. If you want to find work experience abroad, IAESTE is a good place to start and well-worth checking out.
Don’t just look at the big employers; there are plenty of small and medium-sized engineering firms that will welcome students for work experience. Here the speculative application will be your friend. Use a business directory such as Applegate or Yell.com to search for businesses in your area. Give them a ring to find out if they offer work experience and find out of the name of the person to whom you can send your CV and covering letter. You’ll have to send out a good number of applications before you’ll receive a positive response.
Where can I find research work experience?
If you’re interested in exploring a career in academic research, there are a number of avenues to check out. ENSURE, which was pioneered by Loughborough University, offers engineering undergraduates in their penultimate year the chance to experience PhD style research first-hand. You could also try the Amgen Scholars Programme or UROP. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council also offers vacation research bursaries.
Employers offering engineering work experience…
Here’s a selection of big graduate engineering employers that offer work experience opportunities:
Jaguar Land Rover
Transport for London