The majority of product design students at the University of Brighton take a year out to get some experience working in industry. Liz Vassilakes, placements coordinator for product design students, has provided some advice, hopefully giving those who are on the product design courses an insight into what they can gain from a professional placement. It’s also an opportunity for prospective students to see the advantages of choosing a course which has the placement year option available.
The main bonus of the industrial placement is the advantage this will provide when applying for jobs after university. Placement companies sometimes offer their placement students a graduate role. This will give you an advantage, as entering your final year without the pressure of completing job applications will leave you free to focus on your degree.
With the lack of jobs and impending doom and gloom for university leavers being persistently reported by the media, experience is the one thing that can set you apart. Although your degree will provide you with a wealth of knowledge, a placement will teach you to apply this in a commercial environment, increasing your employability. The chance to explore new sectors and, more importantly, find out whether you actually want to work in the area you have been exploring will help to ensure that you can guide your final year to give you the skills you need to go straight into work.
Placements can also be a great way to build confidence. Going out into the world of industry can be scary and doing this with the help, support and structure of the university is an invaluable opportunity.
A solid base of industry experience can be useful during future interviews as well. Competency based interviews require examples of situations and being able to provide a mixture of academic and work based examples can help to set you above the competition. It’s not all about work though – some students on the product design courses have been offered places on further degree courses based on their placement experience.
Having a link with a company and contacts you have made during your industrial year may benefit you during your final year of university. Some companies are able to supply live project briefs which can provide a professional base for a final year project.
Admittedly, doing a placement year can be financially difficult for some students. You are still required to pay a reduced fee rate to the university during your placement year, however, you will remain registered as a full time student which entitles you to exemptions and a student card (5% discount on Amazon – woohoo!)
Being skint for a year may pay off in the end – if you return to your placement company when you graduate, you may be eligible for a better starting salary as you already have a year’s experience. It is also worth considering that without commercial experience, you may end in a low or unpaid internship programme after graduation, which may be harder without the support of a student loan, overdraft and council tax exemptions.