Many degrees offer a year in industry, sometimes called an industrial placement or a sandwich year. This opportunity allows undergraduates to spend year of their studies working within the industry of their chosen topic. Communications, entertainment, retail, banking and finance are just a few examples of industries you may wish to gain experience in.
It is a great feeling to take some time away from studying theories and models and actually apply some of this pre-existing knowledge in an engaging business context. Ensure you apply for a sector you have an interest in as this will be more motivating and worthwhile in future.
Placement provides a realistic opportunity to experience the working environment where students interact with colleagues and team members and are treated as an employee of the organisation.
There are numerous possibilities to learn and develop many “soft” skills: including communication, time management, leadership skills are all developed through working on complex practical tasks. These are beneficial for when you return to University to continue your academic career and for your future professional career.
Commercial awareness is another key skill developed. Through building a rapport with different teams e.g. finance, marketing, senior management, you have the chance to gain insights into factors that affect market share, manufacturing and resourcing decisions etc. You also understand the macro-factors including competition and have a strong understanding of customer needs.
There are numerous chances to develop and grow personally throughout the year; become mature. Towards the end of the placement experience it is an accomplished feeling to know you have blossomed within the organisation and feel a sense of belongingness compared to when looking back to how you felt on your very first day…
The whole experience helps to boost self-confidence and self-esteem, for example I felt confident in my own personal abilities when completing assigned tasks without close managerial supervision.
In addition, you can benefit from company perks for example; meals paid for by the company, company travel opportunities, access to free onsite gym membership or parking, health cover etc.
Off the top of my head, apart from financing another year of University (reduced fees of course) I cannot really highlight major drawbacks. Obviously the impact of COVID-19 has been a burden for businesses in terms of the economic impacts and human resource implications, with mental health being a key factor. However with the right support around you i.e. a supportive manager and team, a great placement expiree is still possible.
Impact of COVID-19
Home working became a more popular norm for students doing their year in industry from 2020-2021. This working style provided a great opportunity to utilise strong digital skills and gain confidence in using video communication software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The limitations of COVID-19 meant many individuals did not receive the in-person interaction and engagement within their team and also travel was restricted therefore removing the option to physically meet with international team members, which was a real shame! (However thankfully for Zoom we could still say hello).
When applying for graduate roles you have increased your chances of being at an advantage having gained commercial experience and a variety of skills, as well as a degree.
The variety of skills and knowledge gained will really help improve your CV and make you stand out within a competitive job market! Also any courses and qualifications gained throughout the year can be shared on LinkedIn to increase the strength of your profile and attractiveness to potential employers.
Last but not least, you could even get offered a graduate job. How great would it be by the end of your placement, you were offered a full time job? This would remove the stress job searching and application processes after graduation.