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Industrial Placements Improve Employability

5 December 2011

The majority of final year Engineering students at University of Ulster will secure employment in their chosen area when they graduate next summer, according to Ron Laird, Industrial Placement Coordinator with the School of Engineering.

All undergraduate courses in the School of Engineering offer students a period of industrial placement during year three of their degree programme. Increasingly students are finding that a successful industrial placement will greatly enhance their long-term career prospects. 

Ron says: “Despite the challenging economic climate, the majority of our students returning to university after their industrial placement have either a definite job offer on graduation, sponsorship in their final year or an indication of interest in employment on graduation by their placement provider.

"Sixty two per cent of final year engineering students have returned from their industrial placement with an indication of interest in graduate employment with their placement company.”  

He says this could be attributed to a number of factors. “The School of Engineering has established an excellent network of contacts with leading local companies in Northern Ireland, multi-national companies operating in Northern Ireland as well as companies in the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and overseas who are keen to take placement students.  

“All the placements are managed through OPUS (Online Placement University System) - a professionally developed web-based system to search for placements and manage all aspects for students, companies and staff.  OPUS, which was designed and developed in the School of Engineering, has proved so successful that other universities in Great Britain and overseas are considering it as a means to manage their placements.” 

The industrial placement offered as an integral part of the degree programme in the School of Engineering is a ‘win win’ situation.

 “Because of Ulster’s well deserved reputation as an educator of genuine applied engineers, employers know our students will be able to make a valuable contribution to their business so they are keen to recruit them for placement and graduate employment opportunities. 

“From a student's perspective, a successful placement will greatly enhance career prospects after graduation, as many companies would prefer a graduate who has had the benefit of industrial experience.    

“Many engineering students earn a good salary during their placement year and a successful industrial placement can lead to well paid employment opportunities after graduation. Some students may also get an opportunity to work abroad during their placement year.”  

Lee Falls from Cookstown, who graduated with a 2:1 degree in Engineering Management from Ulster last year, is one of many Engineering graduates from Jordanstown to secure a full time well paid position after graduation. He is now employed as Engineering Manager with County Tyrone company, Nugent Engineering. The family run business, which was established in 1984 currently employs around 50 people and is a leading manufacturer of agricultural farm machinery.

Lee completed his industrial placement with Nugent and when he returned to Jordanstown for his final year, he maintained his links with the company by working part-time. 

Lee has no hesitation about recommending an industrial placement. “I did my final exam last May and took over as Engineering Manager the next day. The placement created a lot of opportunities for me and I would certainly recommend it.”  

Ms Ailsa McNeill, Head of Human Resources at Schrader Electronics Ltd., agrees that the relationship with the University of Ulster is mutually beneficial.  The electronics company, which designs and manufactures remote tyre pressure monitoring systems, employs around 800 people in its Antrim and Carrick sites and is part of the automotive and industrial division of Tomkins.

She says that the company has over the past twenty years continually developed its industrial placement programme to ensure that both students and the company get the most out of the experience. 

“Placement students are given a specific role and they contribute the business from day one.  Our students are given all the necessary support and mentoring required to help them perform to the best of their ability. 

 “Schrader is an interesting and dynamic place to work – with over 200 engineers working in Research and Development and Manufacturing, students get a fantastic opportunity to see new products being developed from concept through to manufacture and depending on their role, students can be involved in conducing product tests on customer cars or travelling to overseas locations to support our customer needs.  When they return to university, students have access to financial support as well as our people and equipment to help them complete their final year projects.”

She adds: “We get excellent feedback from our students and the fact that we currently have several graduates on our Graduate Development Programme and students on industrial placement bears testimony to the excellent working relationship we have with the University of Ulster.”

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