Each year EASL provides a placement for an engineering or science student to experience a year in industry at our offices. This placement sees students working within a professional engineering consultancy alongside a team of highly trained specialists, earning a wage whilst working full time supporting the operation of the UK’s fleet of nuclear power plants.
To give you an insight into a year in the life of a placement student, we asked our previous participant Amy Saunders about her experiences and how working as part of the EASL team helped to shape and develop her graduate expectations.
How did you find out about the EASL placement and what made you want to join us?
I found out about the EASL placement through the Manchester Metropolitan University Careers and Employability Service. They provide a database of available placement opportunities and graduate positions. EASL caught my eye as the outline of work they worked on seemed to integrate and relate well to my course, and they were based in a nearby area of Manchester, which really appealed, as I love this city!
Could you describe some of the things you undertook during your placement?
I worked closely with my mentor Michael Orton on a number of projects, predominantly on two reports relating to EDF’s Torness and Heysham sites which covered the Component Life Assessment for these two sites. It was really interesting using the thermal reactor power plots, station logs/reports and reviews of a variety of events across stations to compile a report that encompassed the important events that had happened on site. It was nice to feel like I had contributed to these reports meaningfully and helped put together a document that was produced triennially and help station to identify important recurring events.
What was your favourite part of the placement?
One thing you can’t recreate or experience at university, is the day to day life of having a 9 to 5 (or 7.30 to 4 for me with flexi-time) job. Although the work every day was challenging and interesting, one of my favourite things about placement was getting in to that routine of what life would be like post-university. Enjoying working hard throughout the day but not having that dreaded feeling of guilt every evening of a deadline looming or an exam to revise for. That is one thing I am definitely very appreciative of now that I am back at university. Having had that experience of working life, I know what I am now working hard towards.
What was the best thing you did during your placement?
The best thing I did during my placement, I think for me, would have been the trip taken to the Dungeness site with two other members of the team.
It was amazing to see a Nuclear plant up close, see the ins and out of some the pipework, intricate systems and how they all link together and to be immersed into that environment and gain some knowledge on how rigorous and important site health and safety is as well.
It was incredibly warm, and the overalls and helmet weren’t all that attractive! But it was an excellent experience of the practical side of testing and surveying that the company takes on!
Has working for EASL helped you with your academic studies?
Most definitely yes. In two ways. One side being the technical side, I understand why what I have learnt/am learning on my course is so important, what it can be used for in future career paths, I gained some technical knowledge regarding structural integrity/stress/fatigue that will contribute to my learning this, and also some vital skills using Microsoft Office.
In particular, the finer details of using Word and Excel. During placement I gained valuable experience in mastering report writing using Word and also Visual Basic skills using Excel which will be invaluable for university assignments/reports and beyond in the world of work.
Additionally, I am completing my final year dissertation/research project on an idea and area of study that EASL wanted me to work further on relating to a piping systems and the stresses it undergoes. It’s great to go into 2017 knowing that I have a company to work with and collaborate on my project with and give it a real purpose.
But what I think has been more valuable to me, than just the technical knowledge that will help contribute towards my degree, is the experience of being in a professional environment with incredibly intelligent graduates and industry professionals.
I have learnt that although it’s all well and good getting 75% in a test at university, in the real world, you need 100% in a project or in reality that solution will fail/not get chosen/will have to be re-done.
In the real world of engineering, there is no real margin for error or else you will be held accountable. And I think that is an understanding that cannot be taught in a classroom.
Has your placement at EASL changed anything outside of your degree?
Although I loved my year in industry it has made me realise that my skills lie with people and travel as opposed to being predominantly office based and remaining in one location. I found this quite challenging as I enjoy a changing environment throughout my day, getting involved in a variety of activities. However, this is hard to create anywhere on a placement, as a student you have limited experience/skills to offer a workplace and they have to trust you before a real level of responsibility can be reached within any workplace.
Who would you recommend the EASL placement for?
Absolutely anyone who is looking to gain some valuable skills of being in a working environment for a year. I truly believe a placement sets you up for your final year of university and sets you apart on your CV.
It gives you experience and enables you to work out a little bit further what kind of environment you want to be in when you finish university. Rather than committing yourself or being thrown into a graduate scheme or workplace that might not be for you.
EASL are an absolutely lovely, personal company, which allows you to really build up a rapport with all your other colleagues and get to know everyone. I loved my time there and would strongly urge anyone who is thinking of applying, to do so. They’re very easy-going, relaxed but committed to achieving an excellent result in their work.
If you’d like to find out more about our placement, or apply to join, please send us email with a CV and covering letter to HR@easl-stess.co.uk
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