Stephen Green-Price, work placement case study

“Before I began my placement with AECOM, I was quite keen to do building design, so I was initially assigned to Croydon who have a Structures team. However, I actually ended up being based in rail. 

I’ve now gained experience in a wide variety of projects, including bid administration, site structural inspections, rail infrastructure asset identification, feasibility studies and detailed civil and structural design. Some of the clients I have been involved with include London Underground, London Tramlink, Transport for London (TfL), London Streets and High Speed 2. 

Looking back over my year, I feel like carrying out a placement year has been a massive benefit to me in a variety of aspects. Professionally, the experience gained from the projects I’ve been involved in has bolstered my CV enormously. It has made me greatly more employable for after graduation, and in addition has given me confidence in my own professional skills. I can say with full certainty that this experience has given me a definite career advantage for when I enter the world of work. It has been a great financial help as well, allowing me to save money and help ease the burden on my 3rd and 4th years at University. There has also been an offer of sponsorship, in which AECOM pays the placement student a grant per term until they finish University, with the incentive of coming back to work for them after graduation. I have also made some great friends and made many contacts whilst I’ve been here. There has consistently been a great level of support available to help develop my skills throughout my year with AECOM.

My advice would be: even if you’re not sure what you want to do, take every opportunity to see what the company might be able to offer. It’s worth knowing that placement students can often move freely between projects and locations in a way that isn’t always open to graduate engineers.

Showing initiative and enthusiasm during the placement can really pay off. If there is something you really demonstrate a passion for, the organisation will try and find it for you, all you have to do is ask. For example, I was set on carrying out structural inspection work because it I felt there was no better method in understanding how structures behaved than by seeing them first hand. Because I pushed for it, I was allowed to complete training in Personal Track Safety and Confined Spaces, which is not often made available to placement students. The training then equipped me to do other jobs and broaden my specialisms. At first I shadowed others, then later as I gained experience, I was trusted to do solo inspections. Eventually, I was leading structural inspections, where other team members were less experienced. I was always the youngest member of the team, which could have been nerve-wracking, but it worked because we developed a good team rapport. Developing these people skills has increased my confidence enormously and although I took on responsibilities, I was supported very well and never at any point felt isolated.

I’ve had the opportunity to work towards my development objectives to become Chartered. My placement company has encouraged me to transfer from my current BEng course into MEng. Carrying out a placement was very helpful as it gave me extra time to write my dissertation piece. Not only this, but the range of contacts and resources available whilst in this environment is invaluable in terms of the content that can go into a dissertation. 

Before the placement, I was set on building design, but spending time in the rail sector has influenced the field I want to specialise in. Although I was based in Croydon, I was surprised to learn of the global opportunities offered by my organisation and working abroad is something I may want to pursue after graduation.

Often I’m asked if carrying out a placement in industry is worth graduating a year later. The answer is beyond a shadow of a doubt a resounding yes, it is. There is nothing better than a year in professional industry to propel you into the world of work after graduation. The wide range of experience gained during this year widens your scope and opportunities available, you get more choice in what you want to do, and you feel more confident in what field you want to go in. You become leaps and bounds more employable than someone with little or no experience. I can think of no downfalls to carrying out a placement year, only endless benefits; I thoroughly recommend it.”