Supporting the series engineering team in modules concerning interior and exterior trim (all parts excluding powertrain, engine, and electrics). Largely involved the analysis of quality issues and cost down reductions. A very varied role, regular tasks involved the collection of large data samples from cars, modelling and testing of new parts, investigation into failures and waranty returns, and many other smaller tasks. A largely hands on role, with lots of opportunities to test engineering and design concepts directly on cars.
BMW Group has been a very good placement. With around 70-80 interns across the whole site, it is impossible to summarise what every internship will be like as some have really enjoyed it, and others have had less success, so your mileage may vary. Nevertheless, I have greatly enjoyed my placement, my department is very used to having interns, with usually two to three at any given point (one German 6month intern, one German 10week apprentice, and one year long intern). This had the advantage that my department was no stranger to having a student and being understanding of what I am and am not capable of, and giving explanations to certain concepts. On the other hand, it did feel at times that as an intern I was hired more because that was standard procedure rather than because of any particular need for an intern. Of course I am grateful for their employment, and have certainly enjoyed the year, however workload can be very unpredictable and be prepared that while you may likely have the opportunity to lead your own larger projects from time to time, other times you will often just be helping out with odd jobs, and even occasionally have several days where you have little to nothing to do.
Main drawbacks include:
- Very unpredictable workload, some days very busy, some weeks next to nothing to be done
- Not much opportunity for later employment, with over 70 interns at any given point and only a handful of graduate jobs
- Large amount of politics, as in any large company the bureaucracy can get a bit frustrating at times
+ Fantastic social life, frequent parties and weekly pub trips on a Thursday, I have made some very good friends over this year
+ Location, although Oxford is a little bit expensive but plant is located only 30mins from the city centre which is a lot better than most manufacturing plants
+ Feels like I do have real responsibility and I am well trusted to work under my own effort for extended periods of time
+ Opportunity to rent MINIs for evenings and weekends for free, provided you do a minimum mileage and refuel after
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The members of my team whom I did work closely with were very receptive to my work and I never felt like I was "just an intern". For example, if someone were to come to me with work while I was busy, I would feel comfortable to be able to say that I was too busy but I might be able to do it later, and my colleague would be completely understanding. I would also easily chat with them about interests such as cycling, and they were a very welcoming group.
My manager was in charge of a team of 30 people, and therefore very busy during a regular day. Therefore, it was very difficult to get a hold of him and I received very little feedback from him. Thankfully, I worked mostly for another lead engineer who acted as a surrogate manager and gave me sufficient feedback and would be more than happy to spend longer explaining a concept and task to me than it would take him to simply do the task himself. In this regard I did feel supported, but just not by management.
Workload was very irregular, some weeks I was reasonably busy, with enough work to have me busy throughout the day while still having time for breaks and to leave at a regular time. Other weeks, however, in particular towards the beginning and end of my internship, there were periods where I would have almost no work to do. I feel this stems from the fact that my role as an intern is more of a regular process to which each department follows, rather than any actual need for an intern. Of course your mileage may vary as there are interns who were noticeably busy for the entirety of their placement.
I feel like I had a reasonable level of responsibility, I was entrusted with work from an early stage and my team were happy to allow me to carry on with this without any supervision and would always trust my results. I was given use of complex equipment the same way anyone else in my team was, and I was able to ask things of people the same way as anyone else. In terms of work, the tasks given to me were not of the grandest scale, but i feel this is fair as the same would probably be of any new employee and was by no means a specific limitation for an intern.
My work was largely practical based, performing measurements and testing parts etc. This was very interesting, but from an academic point of view not very relevant. There was some CAD based work using CATIA which although is not covered in my studies I am sure will be very useful in later work. Additionally, there was a small amount of data analysis, but nothing beyond what could easily be covered in education before university. Overall, I would say the work has little relevance to my studies, however I think the general skills, such as analytical thinking, working with people from different backgrounds, and general time management, amongst other skills, will be very useful as a basis beyond my studies.
The office in which I worked was a large open plan office of around 100-150 people. The people who I had regular contact with were friendly and the office had a very relaxed feel. Additionally, there were around 12 interns in this office, and we regularly went for coffee breaks and lunches together. As the office was very relaxed, there was a lot of liberty in being able to go over and chat with colleagues without pressure for being away from your desk. So long as you completed your work and were available for most of the day, I had a lot of freedom within the office.
There are approximately 70-80 interns across the whole site, however at times it felt like this was more of a quota than any real necessity. Although my team were well used to having interns and knowing what we are capable of, at the same time it didn't feel as if I had been brought in to do anything in particular, but rather to just assist with odd jobs. Some of these jobs were interesting and definitely developed into larger projects, but toward the start of my placement it was not always clear what I would be doing. Additionally, HR were disorganised, many interns did not receive a contract until after they started and I did not receive a welcome pack which was supposed to be sent out and included important information which I missed out on. Thankfully after starting my placement I did not need to concern myself with HR much, although the first few weeks did feel very unstructured.
As previously mentioned, my department were used to having an intern and therefore were very understanding of what a student can be capable of. I was very fortunate to work with a lead engineer who showed a strong interest in my development and would be sure to give me projects which would develop my skill and have me involved in different areas of the plant. He would sometimes take longer explaining a topic than it would take him to simply do the task himself just in order to ensure that I was involved. The only drawback would be there was no official training given by the company, however the lead engineer I worked with showed a definite interest in my future development
There are many interns in Plant Oxford, but a very limited number of graduate jobs. As a result, it is difficult to get a contract directly with BMW after graduating. It is, however, easier to work with BMW as a contractor. There were many contractors on site which were previous interns, including one in my department, and is a good way in order to gain access to the company, however this comes at a limitation of later promotion as you cannot advance high without being a direct BMW employee.
The social life was a very strong element of my placement year and by far one of the highlights. With so many interns across the site, all of which are of similar age, there are frequent parties and activities. There are two intern organisers who arrange a weekly social where a different pub is visited every Thursday in order to help new interns meet other people, and also occasional larger activities such as beer pong tournaments, bowling, or laser tag. The Plant is very fortunate in that it is located very close to the centre of Oxford, so it is very easy to do things and not have to worry about driving everywhere.
I have made very strong friendships this year, and would definitely recommend this internship to anyone who is social and values making friends.
Oxford is currently listed as the least affordable city for housing in the UK. Average rent will likely be around £400-£500ppm, and a pint of beer will usually be around £4.50. Although it is a student city, it is not priced as such and therefore it can become an expensive year if not careful. The only bright side is that the salary at BMW is respectable, £17,500 per year, and therefore it is possible to save some money, or at the very least break even over the year.
Oxford is a student city, being home to two popular universities. Therefore there is no shortage of pubs, clubs, or bars. There is also a fair range of price, Atik is probably the most popular, spread over two floors with multiple dance floors, but also Purple Turtle and Maxwell's offer cheaper nights with free entry most nights of the week, if for some loss of quality (Purple Turtle being literally underground in a basement). As previously mentioned, there are frequent nights out with the intern community, and with the Plant being so close to the centre most people either cycle or take a taxi which can be less than £10 for a cab of four people.
With the large intern community, there was always an event going on somewhere and it was very rare for me to have a week where I did not do something, whether with the full intern group going bowling or playing beer pong, or sometime in smaller groups such as going punting or just playing football. One of the greatest bonuses of BMW was the KNS car scheme, where employees could rent MINIs for several days so long as a minimum mileage was completed for analysis purposes, 400miles for a weekend, for example. I went on several trips with these cars with other interns, visiting Wales and Cornwall on separate occasions.
There were also occasional work events, such as fundraising Aunt Sally Tournaments, and also the Mountain Challenge, a BMW Group UK wide hiking expedition in the Brecon’s, where we arranged in groups of up to 6 to complete challenges.