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How to get a work experience placement in engineering

Find out what work experience is available for engineering students and how you can get it.

What should I look for?

Many engineering companies offer formal internship placements for students who are studying for related degrees. These placements can be an integral part of the degree course or may be available as summer work experience.

Many graduates apply for graduate programmes after completing their degree, but these programmes are often in high demand (and there can be fewer places available during a downturn). Work experience gives you more chance of getting one of these jobs: many graduate recruits are also former interns. Companies use internships as a way of screening students for permanent graduate positions.

Where should I look?

Some of the places you can find work placement positions advertised are:

  • College careers services
  • Company websites
  • gradireland.com – as well as advertisements for work experience vacancies, you should also check graduate employer profiles, where companies say whether they offer work experience placements.
  • Work experience vacancies and company profiles on targetjobs.co.uk (covers UK employers).
  • Placement organisations such as AIESEC and Iagora.com
  • Overseas development agencies (for paid or voluntary placements).

Talk to your careers service to find out what internship programmes are available and where graduates have gone in the past. Many of the bigger employers will give presentations during the academic year in your college as well as attending college careers fairs or the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair in the RDS. See gradireland.com/events for details of what is coming up.

As a graduate, don’t be afraid to contact any of the companies that offer placements to students during their courses rather than graduates. Your college Placement Coordinator should have an extensive list of companies that take on placement students.

Speculate and network

Contact companies directly. If you are applying speculatively, try to get in touch with the manager of the relevant department in a company rather than those in HR. Membership directories on professional body websites such as Engineers Ireland can be a great place to start in sourcing companies.

You should use everyone in your network to get access to experience during and after your degree. Your contacts can include friends, family, lecturers, classmates, team mates, past employers or anyone else you have come in contact with, perhaps at industry events or trade fairs.

Become a member of your professional body and attend any association events. Get talking to employers and let them know you are looking for experience.

While you don’t want to undersell yourself, getting your foot in the door can be all important. So don’t rule out voluntary work experience. Just think of the longer term benefit.

Be open

If your ideal position isn’t available, be open to experience in other areas that will enhance your skills. For example, you can develop your organisational and project-management skills in supply chain management or operations areas.