On doing an industrial placement year

2019-07-05

Sharing my thoughts and experience after completing a placement year at university.

I recently completed my 12 month industrial placement with Clock, an award winning digital agency based in Watford. Now that I've had some time to reflect on the year, I thought that I'd like to talk a bit about the experience, and the idea of placement year in general.

Eh? Placement year?

Almost all courses at almost all UK universities give you the option to undertake an industrial placement year between the second and third years of your degree. In some cases it can give credit towards your degree, e.g. your placement year may form a module that counts toward your final year grade. In others (such as mine) it doesn't actually count towards your grade, but instead of just having a degree, you will have a degree with placement when you finish university.

But no matter how your placement year may influence your degree, all offer the most valuable thing - real world experience.

You get the opportunity to work a real job for a year, breaking up your degree and giving you some exposure to what 9-5 life is like. It can really help you get an idea of what you want (or don't want) to do after you finish your degree.

My experience

I was very lucky finding Clock - they were only the second company I applied to, and the interview was smooth and painless. I was one of five placement students, in a company of ~45 employees.

The main thing I was worried about when looking for placements was being given too little responsibility. I'm sure all students hear the same stories about placements just making tea all year - and can't imagine anything worse. I'm a very proactive person, and the thought of this terrified me. Fortunately, that wasn't the case at all - right from the start I was integrated with the team and treated just the same as people who had been working at Clock for years.

Working in a real production environment taught me lots more than my slow and out-dated university syllabus. There are a whole load of things that you just aren't exposed to at university - things like proper git workflow, QA processes, or even just how to communicate with a team of developers.

Having gotten into a proper working life routine over the past year, I feel like I will be going back to university for my final year with a much improved work ethic and desire to get things done. I will be taking so may new skills and lessons learned over the course of my placement back with me, hopefully meaning that my work in final year should be of higher quality than the years prior.

To conclude

All in all, I can't recommend doing a placement year enough. Sure - it can be a challenge doing real job hunting for the first time, travelling to assessment days and interviews. But what you will bring back from your placement is invaluable and more than worth the hassle of getting the job. Personally, I think universities really should push students towards placement years a lot more than they do. They're incredibly beneficial; especially in an environment where employers expect you to have experience straight out of university.