Work placement leads to an award – and job – for Kent computing student

Olivia Miller

David Sharp, an undergraduate computer science student at Kent, has been highly commended in ASET (The Work Based and Placement Learning Association)’s 2020 Student Competition.

ASET’s yearly competition is open to students returning to their institutions having completed a placement, internship, or work experience during the previous academic year, and has been running for more than 35 years. David submitted a reflection on the value of his placement experience and its impact on his future and was awarded £100 prize money for his highly commended entry.

Now in his fourth year of studying a BSc degree in Computer Science with a Year in Industry at the University’s School of Computing, David was named an award winner in recognition for his placement success at Ideaworks, a small-medium sized company specialising in Electronic Design and Installation.

David’s role was within Ideaworks’ technology team researching and developing future IoT products, where he learnt a variety of different tools to expand on his knowledge gained at the University of Kent. This ranged from learning how to develop smart phone apps, to programming back-end databases. He adapted to working from home for Ideaworks when the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020, which prepared him for his final year of studies.

Bromley-born David has since been offered a full-time job at Ideaworks after he graduates. He said: ‘I am delighted to be highly commended by ASET for my year in industry. The work I did on my placement made me feel more confident in my computer science skills and taught me further new skills that I wouldn’t have been able to get at university alone, such as spending hours fixing and rooting broken mobile phones. I feel like my placement has given me a head start for after graduation. I have matured massively and been able to work in a professional environment, gaining that ‘real world’ experience, all before finishing my university degree.

‘I am very grateful for the help from Kent’s Computing Placement Office, who were incredibly helpful when I was applying to placements. Not only did they organise weekly lectures to allow different companies to give us advice about applications, but they allowed us to book 1-to-1 meetings. The content of these meetings ranged from CV advice, to interview preparation. During my placement, the placement office also kept in touch regularly and were always there to help if we had a problem. I don’t think I would have found a placement without them.’

Katie Van Sanden, Employability and Placements Manager at the School of Computing, said: ‘I am proud of all our Year in Industry students who have needed to adapt to professional remote working under such difficult circumstances (both last year, and those currently on placement). Students have always returned to their final year with more knowledge and experience, more skills and more motivation, but this year they have also demonstrated resilience and adaptability, both increasingly sought-after skills. In his ASET competition submission, David not only recognised the value his placement year added but acknowledged how it will help him going forward which is particularly rewarding to see.

‘The School of Computing’s Year in Industry programme has been running for over 15 years, with over 100 students usually going on placement each year. During the 2020/2021 academic year 52 students have undertaken workplace placements. Its success is largely due to the School’s strong links with industry, and repeat business from its placement partners, as well as the dedicated resource available to students. Like David, many students return to their placement employer after their degree, so the Year in Industry provides a powerful stepping-stone to graduate employment.’