PLACEMENTS AND INTERNSHIPS
- What is a placement?
- Why do a degree with a placement?
- What sort of work would I do in a placement?
- Applying for placements
- Questions asked to Kent students at placement interviews
- Getting the most out of your placement
- Placement opportunities
- Further Information
- Useful websites
Many courses at Kent come with the option of doing a year in industry, also known as a sandwich or placement year between the second and final year of your degree course. You’ll spend up to 12 months employed in a subject-related role and it counts as part of your degree.
Some companies use your time with them as an extended interview and if you perform well, may offer you a permanent job after you graduate. There is even evidence to suggest that if you do a year in industry you often get a better-paid job after you graduate. Take Computer Science students for example. In 2010, graduates from the 4-year placement degree course had a starting salary of £26,461 compared to non-placement graduates who began on £20,754 – that’s a difference of 27%!
Some employers offer shorter sandwich placements of four to six months and also vacation placements, usually involving two or three months work over the summer, so, if you see the word "placement" used in a job advertisement, you should check exactly what the employer means by this!
- A placement is a good way of gaining work experience within a degree. It provides insights into the real world of management, a chance to use the skills you have and to develop them further.
- It gives you a chance to see if you would enjoy a particular job or type of company before committing yourself. Even if after a placement you decide that the type of work you did on the placement doesn't interest you, you will know better what else to apply to.
- The fact that you are paid on a placement also helps financially, particularly coming when it does, two thirds of the way through your degree. Placements with big companies often pay very well.
- It also helps when applying later for graduate jobs - your experience of work will be a positive sign, and your placement employer may well be prepared to act as one of your referees.
- Unemployment rates for graduates who have done a placement are typically much lower than for graduates who have not. From 2006 to 2010, 6.7% of non-placement Kent Computer Science graduates were unemployed 6 months after leaving, but only 4% of Computer Science graduates who did a 1 year internship were unemployed.
- Salaries for graduates who have done a placement year are also usually higher. For example, the average known starting salary of non-placement (3 year) University of Kent Computer Science graduates in 2010 was £20,754, whereas graduates doing the 4 year placement computer science degree were earning on average £26, 461: 27% more money.
I would probably say that the fundamental reason why I got my role in the bank was having a placement or work experience. [It] allows you to get some practical skills that you wouldn’t be able to have if you were just in a university environment…so having a placement is probably the number one reason why I got my role.
- Placement students often get a job offer from their placement company for when they graduate. It is not unusual for students who have done placements to be encouraged by their placement employer to apply to them again for a graduate trainee position, and this usually means that you will go straight to the final stage of the graduate selection process.
- By making applications and going for interview for placements, you greatly improve your applications and interview skills, giving you a distinct advantage in your final year.
- You can use those insights and skills in your final year modules to your advantage. In particular you can often create a good final year project by developing aspects of the placement.
- An added bonus is that placement students often get a better final degree perhaps because of the knowledge they have gained during their year out, or because they have improved their time management skills during the placement.
It’s competitive, but if you work hard during the application process it really can pay off with Computing students recently on placement with the Police, Disney, HSBC in Hong Kong and Cisco in California!
The possibilities are extremely diverse, but the following extracts from job descriptions of sandwich placements may help to give some idea of what is involved:
Obtaining a placement with major graduate employers, such as those above, is competitive and your application must be as strong as possible, showing that you know what the work is likely to involve in the area for which you are applying and demonstrating that you have the personal skills and abilities to do it well. Many employers will use the same application form for placement students as they do for graduate trainees. See our "Applications" pages at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/applicn.htm for advice on completing these forms. Some of these employers will have closing dates during the first term of your second year.
If you have a strong interest in a particular type of work, or type of employer, that does not regularly advertise placement opportunities, you may need to be the one who makes the first approach. It is quite in order to write to companies to tell them about yourself and to ask if they might be able to offer you a placement. This approach should normally be made via a CV and letter: see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv.htm for more about writing these. Our pages on the Creative Career Search at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/CJ.htm will give you more advice on making speculative approaches to employers.
Please note that although the Careers and Employability Service will help you as much as we can when applying for sandwich placements which are part of your degree course, it is not part of our formal responsibilities and you should also get help from the placement tutor in your department, who may know of placement opportunities that we are not aware of.
- If we were to offer you an internship, which areas would you most like to be in?
- What do you want to achieve in your placement?
- Tell me about your project: what did you do? How did you go about it? How did you organise yourself?
- Group project: how many people were in your project group? How long did you have for the project? How did you split the problem up between you?
- Why did you choose Kent for your degree?
- Why did you choose to study your degree subject?
- Which part of your degree course do you like the most and why? Dislike the most?
- Describe a situation where you had to help others.
- When have you set yourself goals in jobs, and how have you reached them?
They gave us a HR questionnaire that asked about what we hoped to get out of the placement and why we liked the company. Then I had a tour and an interview where they only asked me about my favourite experiments done at uni and for an example of teamwork. I had to answer two maths questions as well.
Science placement interview
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What skills do you think you can bring to us?
- What would your friends say is your strongest point?
- Could you give me an example, where you have been in a team? What was your role and contribution?
- How do you overcome problems with people you don't like?
- Have you ever done something without having people to ask you to? (initiative and innovative)
- What motivates you?
- Give an example where you have been leader.
- Give an example where you have come across a problem, and how you have solved it?
- Have you ever missed any deadlines?
- How do you prioritise your work?
- Why did you apply to our company?
- What do you know about the company?
- What does the company do?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What are the strengths/weaknesses of our company?
- Who are our main competitors?
Tips from students after interviews
- Answer questions in a positive manner. For every answer, try to always refer to specific examples of experiences you had or skills that you have developed. All you want to tell them is that you have the skills and by working with them, you are able to build upon these skills and at the same time make an effective contribution to their firm.
- I applied to 10 companies; received 6 rejections and 2 offers. If you are set to do a placement year, you have to try applying to as many companies as possible.
- I had a half hour tour and informal discussion with existing placement student.
- Research in advance what the company does.
The placement is a formal part of your degree and you will be required to keep a log of your training and work experience during the year and to produce a report at the end of the year. These can be used as the basis for future applications for graduate jobs. They will also help you to analyse the skills you have developed through your placement.
A placement year can also help you to make decisions about your future career - to discover what you like and dislike about the work, where your strengths and weaknesses lie and what possibilities there are for long-term career development in that field of work. Taking time to reflect on what you have seen and done during your placement, and how you have developed as a result, is an important part of learning through your work experience.
You can use our Skills pages to find out more about the skills needed by graduate recruiters, to analyse and record your own skills and to prepare answers to skills-based questions on graduate application forms.
Details of current and forthcoming placement opportunities sent to the Careers and Employability Service by employers will be placed on our online vacancy database as they are received. You can search the database for placement opportunities by type of work, location, etc. Try out the database or register at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/jobs
Kent Business School now have a placements page www.kent.ac.uk/kbs/undergraduate/year-industry/ug-placement-student.html
If you would like an idea of which employers might recruit placement students, you can find lists of employers who advertised placements for the previous academic year here.
- Focus on Work Experience. Published by the National Council for Work Experience and available on the Prospects website at www.prospects.ac.uk/links/WorkExp This site also includes a database of all kinds of work experience placements, from full sandwich years to vacation work and work shadowing.
- TARGETJobs www.targetjobs.co.uk/workexperience Covers placements, internships, summer jobs and voluntary work
- Everything you Wanted to Know about Sponsorship, Placements and Graduate Opportunities . (Official Guide of the British Association for the Advancement of Science) www.everythingyouwantedtoknow.com Not just for scientists! - it includes general information on placements, applications and interviews as well as employer listings. The print editions of all the above guides are available in the Careers Information Room and spare copies are available to take away while our stocks last.
- Our Work Experience page www.kent.ac.uk/careers/vacwork.htm includes vacation work opportunities and information on placement providers.
- The Prospects website www.prospects.ac.uk/links/WorkExp includes the National Work Experience Bank of student work experience opportunities from full sandwich years to vacation work and work shadowing.
- The Year In Industry www.yini.org.uk work placement scheme from the Royal Academy of Engineering but also offers placements in business, including personnel, marketing, business planning and other non-technical fields.
- The STEP programme www.step.org.uk places students in small and medium-sized companies and community organisations. Typical projects include preparing a marketing plan, market research, feasibility and risk assessment and e-commerce.
- Fledglings www.fledglings.net UK student resource for Industrial Placements and graduate careers
- Rate My Placement www.ratemyplacement.co.uk allows you to view ratings of placements made by students who have had placements in particular organisations. You can also add your own ratings.
- iHipo.com www.iHipo.com combination of social network and jobsite. Offers Young Professionals and Students hundreds of international job and internship offers from prestigious employers.
- Student Employment Services www.studentemploymentservices.co.uk have a number of placements for students.
- ASET www.asetonline.org A Good Practice guide for Placement and other Work-Based Learning Opportunities in Higher Education.
- Student Job www.studentjob.co.uk helps students find the job they are looking whether that is during study, as a placement/internship, temporary - during a gap year or in summer.
- The Student Ladder www.studentladder.co.uk summer internships for penultimate year students, work placements for first year students in Easter or summer of their first year, 12 month industrial placements.
- Graduate Advantage www.graduateadvantage.co.uk/home work experience/internships in the West Midlands
- Kent Placement Portfolio www.kent.gov.uk/placementportfolio Designed to help students gain real work experience. Makes finding, applying for and starting a placement as easy as possible, to enable students to build on and develop skills gained at university. Student placement opportunities with Kent’s public sector organisations, local businesses and community groups. The portfolio is currently targeting environmental, sustainability, and climate change based projects so students studying in these areas would benefit most from the facility.
Last fully updated 2016