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Exploring the industrial placement experience for mechanical engineering undergraduates

Author(s): Gary Lock | Kate Bullock | Virginia Gould | Momna Hejmadi

Journal: Engineering Education
ISSN 1750-0044

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 42;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: industrial placement | work-based learning

This paper explores the attitudes of undergraduate engineers towards work placements in industry. This research also assesses the placement experience in terms of student learning outcomes and future employment aspirations. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from three groups: (i) those recently returning from a placement; (ii) those yet to go on placement and (iii) those who elected not to go on placement. Semi-structured interviews gathered experiences and perceptions from all three groups and formed the basis of attitude questionnaires distributed to 276 undergraduates at the University of Bath. Students were asked what value they attached to a year in industry, what improvement in personal transferable skills (such as team-working, time-management, communication and learning) they felt was gained and their perception of the placement experience in terms of aspirations of future employment. Factors influencing the decision of whether or not to undertake a placement were explored. The marks of the students in each of the three populations were scrutinised in order to determine any academic differences between the groups and to assess any value added by a placement in terms of improved performance on returning to university. Finally, this paper identifies reasons why undergraduates do not elect to undertake placements, asking if these important decisions are well-informed or otherwise.
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