I am so glad I did a year in industry and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It gave me the chance to immerse myself fully in the industry and see how I cope with large workloads and a range of tasks, allowing me to see where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I feel 100 times more prepared and confident looking at graduate schemes now, based off of my placement experience.
The engineering team I was based with on placement really made the year for me overall. Having felt a little apprehensive going in and not knowing what to expect, I felt really welcomed and part of the team immediately. The atmosphere in the office was always upbeat and relaxed and I found myself looking forward to walking into that each day. The strong working and social relationships I made within the team made me feel more confident voicing my thoughts and opinions in team meetings where I felt my voice was heard and considered.
During my placement, I felt as though my manager really wanted me to get the most out of the experience as possible. The development plan laid out for me initially included a wide range of different project work and one-off tasks to support - this variety was a good way for me to find my feet and become familiar with a lot of people and processes. On occasions where I expressed an interest in an area or task outside the development plan, he was always supportive and encouraged me to pursue it and set something up. Regular 1-1's gave me a chance to discuss these interests, career development/options, and more. I was also included in a number of interesting customer/site visits, for example to GKN, Leonardo and Airbus, which I really enjoyed.
I found for the first month or so the work was relatively slow, however I appreciated this as it gave me time to familiarise myself with the site, specific processes, the products we were manufacturing and time to do a bit of self-training on CAD so I was ready to tackle modelling and drawing tasks later on. Once the work got going, I found it came in waves, so sometimes I'd be really busy and other times I'd have a bit more time on my hands. With the time management training (part of the core internship programme) I found I was able to approach large workloads more effectively, and actually appreciated having the chance to practice my time management skills in real workplace scenarios. When I did not have so much work on, I was able to express my interest in work that others were doing, picking up tasks that I felt were of particular interest to me.
I felt the further into the placement I got, the more responsibility I was able to take on. Due to the nature/risk associated with aerospace products, any drawings/models I produced were checked and signed-off by a more senior engineer, however this was due to process and not my position. In other tasks I felt I was given more responsibility, such as creating/writing test procedures, investigating product compliance to customer requirements and initiating requests for engineering changes.
Now that I am looking to apply for graduate schemes, I can see how valuable the year in industry really was. I am able to tick a lot of boxes for job requirements now; for example, coming out of my placement with a high level of proficiency in CAD modelling/drawing opens up a lot of doors into further design engineering roles where I'd be able to hit the ground running.
The team were one of my favourite parts of the whole placement. It was a relatively small office with about 7 of us there permanently. I liked that it was a smaller site as I was able to get to know each team member well. Everyone seemed to be really good friends, making the atmosphere feel really relaxed and upbeat.
I thought the structure of the internship programme was really good. We had a range of core training sessions (presentation skills, business writing, time management etc) where all interns would meet at one site and spend a day training together. The support given from the internship coordinators was consistent throughout the year, particularly towards the end where advice was given on applications for graduate positions with the company.
My only criticism would be the fact that I was the only intern based at my site - it would have been good to have some other people in my position there, as I know some interns from other sites were able to meet up before the internship started and arrange living together.
I felt my team were all invested in my continuous development and training, offering new experiences as they arose that they felt might be good for my to do. I had expressed a strong interest in undertaking a couple of external training courses (e.g. DFSS, CATIA certification), these unfortunately didn't materialise, I think due to funding.
Future prospects are really promising with Eaton, especially since they also run a good graduate scheme. It's certainly a company I would like to return to in the future if the opportunity was a good a fit for my skills and interests. With sites all over the world the prospect of working abroad is really exciting, too.
I felt at my site this could have been better as I was the only intern based at my location. Since a lot of the sites were further down South in the UK, I didn't really get the opportunity to see the other interns other than on the arranged internship training days. Having said that, there were a number of other people my age on site who I made good friends with, and the engineering team also went out a number of times together.
Coming from university in London and paying extortionate prices for everything, living in Birmingham for the year was a really nice break and felt a lot cheaper in all aspects! The salary of the internship year was more than enough to cover rent and a busy lifestyle outside of work - I was even able to buy my first motorbike and go on holiday to South Korea!
In Redditch itself, where the site is based, there is not an awful lot going on. However it's only 30 mins or so into the centre of Birmingham which is obviously a huge city where there's always something going on. I chose to live in Selly Oak for the year, where I was located sort of half-way between the two, which worked really well.
In terms of Eaton-run opportunities, there were chances to go to careers fairs, and support a local school participating in the Headstart Engineering Education Scheme which is something I really enjoyed doing. I believe there was also an Eaton football team that competed in matches and trained together. Outside of work in my own time, I was based very near to Birmingham where there was a lot going on all the time.