Industry placement models for Engineering and Manufacturing
There are 3 typical models for placements: Day, Block and Mixed. As long as the total time for each placement adds up to a minimum of 315 hours (and on average we expect placements to be around 350 hours), you can adapt the models to suit your business needs, and to align with the student’s course.
The placement model will be agreed between you, the college or school and the student to give the flexibility to optimise the placement for all parties. T Level students choose their specialism in Year 1. The placement can take place later in that year, or entirely in Year 2, or across both years.
Which model is best for you in Engineering and Manufacturing roles?
Questions you may want to ask yourself when determining which model best suits your organisation.
- are there areas of your organisation that are suitable and safe for students to work in at particular times (for example, on-site, off-site, workshop environments)?
- how would the timing of a placement with you fit with the student’s course and their learning objectives (for example, the development of tool skills to perform engineering operations)?
- do you have seasonal peaks and troughs in your work scheduling or is this pretty constant throughout the year, so regular weekly hours would be best, or is your work in project or contract-based blocks?
- are there machines and engineering activities that are only performed in very small operational windows?
- are there times of year when your staff and activity is more suited to providing industry placements for students?
- does the placement fit with the student’s career planning?
(using c.350 average hours as examples)
Year 1: 1 day a week, for 20 weeks using 160 of the 350 hours
Year 2: 1 day a week, for 25 weeks using the remaining 190 hours
When this model might work:
- In a work environment where services are delivered directly to users and customers on demand
- Where staff are on hand on particular days and face-to-face work with the student would be possible
NHS Hospital Trust
Engineering skills (mechanical and electrical), maintenance and installation work are required throughout this local NHS Trust to keep it safe and operational. The Trust has an aging engineering workforce and therefore recognised that industry placements could introduce students to the Trust and potentially help to fill the future skills gaps.
The Trust offered day-release placements building skills over 2 years. The work was regular and exposed learners to a wide range of technical experiences as well as continuing the development of their interpersonal and team working skills. Following their placement, several students gained employment with the Trust.
Automotive and maintenance repair business
The owner manager of a small garage organised an industry placement with a view to identifying someone they could offer a full-time position to in the future.
The placement was offered on a regular 1-day-a-week basis across the 2 years. The student developed gradually over the two years, starting with routine maintenance tasks such as preparing the work area and gathering spares and parts, moving onto replacing components and repairing vehicles.
The placement helped the garage by providing an increasingly skilled technician over the 2 years and gave the student a practical insight into the industry.
Year 1: A single block using 150 of the 350 hours
Year 2: A single block using the remaining 200 hours
When this model might work:
- Where concentrated work over an extended period is needed to meet the specific deadline of a project
- Where placement blocks can be aligned to project lifecycles or annual business processes
- To allow managers to schedule and plan well in advance for groups of students
Engineers in a commercial airline look after and fix all the aircraft communications network and high-tech equipment required to support operations in the air.
Block placements are the preferred model for engineering roles in the airline. They facilitate planning and scheduling opportunities and supervision for students well in advance.
In their first intake of placements, in Year 1 students built relationships within the team and developed workplace skills, participating in live aircraft maintenance. In Year 2, students were involved in more specialist tasks – for example, testing technical systems and conducting post-maintenance de-briefs. All activities were closely supervised.
The company is planning to offer placements as a single block in Year 2 in future, since they value the input and work of the more experienced students.
Small manufacturing company – broadcast industry
A small manufacturing company produces equipment for the broadcast industry, which peaks twice a year over 4-yearly cycles, aligning to the Olympics and Football World cup.
Industry placement students have been brought in to support the preparation for peak periods, completing particular projects and roles – for example, design some components using CAD/CAM or to produce prototypes using Additive Manufacturing (3D printing).
Students had opportunities to develop their skills working in a team, using relevant software, understanding the design process, evaluating the effectiveness of the designs to inform the manufacturing process.
Year 1: 2 days a week for 5 weeks, using 80 hours of the 350 hours
Year 2: A block using the remaining 270 hours
When this model might work:
- Where a mix of regular and project-based activities can be worked into a placement
- When it helps a student to understand your organisation in a phased way, building involvement as the student develops
- When it helps the employer to understand the core content and the knowledge, skills and interests of your student so as to develop the right kind of training and support
A small engineering business
A small engineering business that makes navigation equipment contacted their local college to discuss the difficulties of competing with larger employers in the area for skilled staff. They set up an industry placement which had a dual benefit: providing young people with insights into engineering and manufacturing, while also solving the employer’s skills supply problems.
To start with, the student attended 1 day per week as they developed their core knowledge of the role and their workplace skills. The student came back in Year 2, after further training, to work on a more specialist project within a team. The student developed their skills and confidence to review and make recommendations for the reconfiguration of the workshop’s pre-job risk assessment process.
The company provides reliable, efficient and high-quality drinking water and wastewater services in their region. Industry placement students have been taken on to support a review and feedback on designs for water mains and sewers and assist with the production of engineering documentation which was to be included in the tender documentation for the provision of construction of new sewers.
The placements matched tasks to the students’ time and capabilities. A 2-week induction block was important, to ensure learners were comfortable in the work environment and understood their duties and responsibilities. This was followed by a 2 days per week release, working with engineers in the field, which also allowed the company to develop management and mentoring skills within their team.