Many young people choose to pursue their higher studies abroad because of the quality of education and the existing better job prospects. The United Kingdom has, for a long time, been a preferred choice for those looking to study and work abroad. However, the move from academics to the workforce isn’t always an easy one. Many young people struggle for several years before being able to get a full-time job. One way for students to ensure they have a better chance of landing a job is by adding work experience to their portfolio.
While some undergraduate courses include work placement as a compulsory element, others do not. Those pursuing courses that lack a work year should consider arranging one for themselves. The reason is simple. Students having practical exposure in an organizational setup are better candidates in the eyes of prospective employers.
Industry Experience and Everything it Offers
Students pursuing courses abroad should opt for a degree that offers an internship or a work year as part of its program. This work experience is not merely to obtain a certificate but provides students with the know-how of the real world. Whether it is a 3- or 4-year program in total, a placement year helps students put the technical knowledge learned in the classroom to practice in the real world.
There is a slight difference between an internship and a placement year. A placement year is longer in duration but provides students with a thorough exposure to the in-depth working of an organization and enables them to take on more serious roles.
Some universities in the UK offer Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), where organizations hire students to handle short-term projects. These can stretch from a year to three years. Many manage to secure a job at the same company before the end of the year. Students interested in remaining in the UK after their education will be on the fast track to a full-time job with a good placement year up to their sleeve. Very often students receive a salary during their placement year, which assists in paying off their tuition fee or provides a larger spending capacity.
Some of the other benefits of a placement year are as follows:
Gives an edge over the rest
In a world where competition is high, and jobs are hard to come by, having an entire year of company exposure teaches students a lot about a company. Right from the soft skills needed to be professional in the workplace to the hard skills one needs to sharpen to carve a place in the job markets.
Gives employers a better impression
In a NACE Job Outlook survey, 91% of employers stated that they preferred hiring candidates with job experience. Thus, even if the work year or ‘sandwich year’ is not part of the degree program, students opting for it are seen as possessing a certain level of commitment and desire to work hard, which usually bodes well for employers.
Provides the student with the future direction
Employers appreciate the technical know-how guaranteed when a person has already interned or worked at an organization. Research indicates that 70 percent of companies offer interns a job right after their work year. However, only 56% of students convert these internships into full-time jobs. After working in a specific area for a year, some realize that they are not inclined towards that area or niche and may choose to switch career paths.
Helps students to build a strong network
By interacting with so many different people, students can grow their network. When they move out into the workforce, having these connections enables them to hear about vacancies. They might even land a good job through recommendations.
The Need to Sell Yourself during Work Placement
In many universities like the University of Bath, Aston University, and Ulster University, more than 50% of students, including international students, pursuing degree courses opt for a placement year though they might have to manage it themselves. But whether a work placement is provided by the university or requires the student to find one themselves, there are a few things all students should keep in mind when pursuing their work year.
● Ensure that their employers are aware of their interest in the company beyond the given year- This can be done by either talking to HR or simply informing the superior about their desire to contribute to the organization in the long run as well.
● Avoid shying away from feedback – Even if a student is doing a good job, it is important to enquire whether the organization supports the way they handled a project. The initiative shows employers that students are open to learning the processes the organization follows and are not averse to feedback. Asking for a performance evaluation after completing a significant amount of time would also be one way of getting the boss to focus on the student’s strengths and accomplishments.
● Interact with different people – Students need to utilize this year to expand their social network by associating with different people in the organization. Forming these associations can assist when looking for a job later on.
Adapting to the Current Scenario
Students who complete work placement have a higher possibility of getting jobs thereafter. Many such graduates found that their salaries were approximately 10 percent higher than candidates who came in without experience.
Unfortunately, with the pandemic wreaking havoc on countries across the globe, students who would have otherwise grabbed the opportunity of interning or taking a sandwich year have been greatly hit. Many have lost their internships and find themselves in a tight spot. But after going through the hectic process of application, moving abroad, having thorough education background checks done, and finally settling in and getting accustomed to the campus, it is important to not let disappointment get in the way. Instead, students should try to make the best of the current situation.
Although statistics indicate that roughly 64% of companies canceled internships, with campus placements discontinued due to the current situation, students need to shift gears and begin the hunt for virtual work experience, online courses or work from home jobs to add to their portfolio.
While many are skeptical about whether virtual internships will help, this should be seen as an opportunity to interact and work with different people. While this may not be the same as an industry placement, it does show that students are proactive and solution-oriented. It also reflects their tenacity and work ethic all of which are traits that can serve students well when they walk into the workforce post-covid.