A year in industry – get firsthand experience of working life

Cameron Blackwell has recently completed a Year in Industry (YINI) placement at Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald where he worked to design cost-effective bridge replacements. He is now going on to study Civil Engineering at Warwick University. Read on to see what Cameron thought of his YINI placement.

Which post-16 qualifications did you study?

A levels: Maths, Physics & German.
AS levels: Further Maths, Design & Technology.

What motivated you to apply for a placement?

Mainly financial as the benefits can obviously be substantial but also thought the experience would be invaluable in the current job climate.

What did your typical day whilst on your placement involve?

Working in the office doing design or assessment calculations for motorway structures.

What were you most proud of during your placement?

My bridge design which was chosen as one out of 18 others to be recommended for construction to the Highways Agency by a feasibility study. I went on to submit this for the Contribution to the Business Award and got into the top four nationally, winning the prize for Best Science and Engineering Entry.

What was the best and worst thing about the experience?

The best thing was to be working at the level of graduates with several years’ experience and seeing my work being both implemented and also treated with similar respect to that of anyone else in the office. Whilst the worst thing was waiting for work to complete.

Did your experiences whilst on your placement change your career ambitions?

I changed my degree course from General Engineering to Civil Engineering because of my experiences. Ironically, before I started the placement, Civil Engineering was the specialism I was least interested in and the one I was least likely to choose.

What made you decide to go on to study at university?

The structure of the engineering sector I was interested in is such that it is far more difficult and takes far longer to reach your full potential within the business without a degree.

What skills will you take from your placement into university?

Obviously there is some technical knowledge, although I assume it will be a long time before I can implement a lot of that as we will be starting from basic theory. One of the most useful skills however, is that of self study which will undoubtedly come in extremely useful.

If you could pass on some advice to future students who are given similar opportunities for work placements what would you say to them?

Don’t sit around waiting for work; it looks bad on your manager if you’re sitting doing nothing and worst of all it makes you look extremely lazy. Take the initiative and go looking for the work, ask colleagues, managers or just use the time to research and teach yourself some of the theory. Be productive with your time and people will notice.

What did you dream of doing when you were growing up and how has that changed?

As a child I always wanted to be an Inventor, so although I haven’t strictly reached my goal as an Engineer I think I have come pretty close.

If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?

Tenacious, playful and inventive.

What do you like to do in your free time when you are not working or studying?

I enjoy sport and socializing. I’ll either go out for a jog or sit in the pub with friends, or I might try and combine the two and play a game of rugby.

And finally…looking back over the choices you have made and the opportunities that have been available to you so far regarding your education, would you have done anything differently?

Having found out about the other opportunities provided by the EDT such as Headstart, I sometimes wish I had also taken part in those activities simply because I think I would have really enjoyed them and it would have helped me focus earlier on what I wanted to do.

Further details

See the Engineering & Development Trust (EDT) for more information on the Year in Industry and  Headstart schemes.

More on Discovering Technicians

Technicians in Engineering

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James Hicks, Environment Officer, Environment Agency

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