6,000 students recently took part in a study conducted by online forum ‘the Student Room’ on ‘A-level advice for the right degree path’. Worrying numbers were unearthed as it appeared that hundreds of students had taken the incorrect subjects to access their chosen university or degree path.
The study revealed that 32% of students rated their school’s careers advice as ‘weak’, with a further 39% of less affluent students confirming they had received poor information on subject choices. If students receive incorrect careers advice or do not get enough advice that leads to them studying the wrong subjects, they could miss out on opportunities to take part in enrichment activities that, coupled with the right subjects, will help them to gain experience and enhance skills that employers are looking for. Therefore a lack of advice or wrong advice can be detrimental on a young person when gaining all the requirements they will need for their future career, especially a career in industry.
EDT recently spoke with Careers Advisor Alan Robertson, who works at the University of Strathclyde, about the importance of the work he does and his involvement with the Year in Industry - a paid, 9-12 month placement programme run by EDT.
EDT- What has been your experience of The Year in Industry (YINI) scheme?
Alan - For many years I have engaged with YINI as a University Engineering Careers Adviser, but more recently as a parent with all three of my children taking up YINI placements prior to going to university with MacKenzie Partnership, BAE Systems and Scottish Power. All three children had a great, professional, challenging experience over the year which laid an excellent foundation for their university education, subsequent work experience placements/internships and ultimately, their graduate careers. My youngest child is still studying at university and has returned to her YINI placement provider during her summer vacation for a second placement in a business role – not all YINI placements are within engineering!
Of course as a University Engineering Careers Adviser, I have worked with students who have joined our programmes following YINI, as the placements are also available to pre-university students. I have also encouraged some existing students to take a ‘year out’, perhaps between years 2 & 3, to get industrial experience prior to completing their degree studies.
EDT- You have been involved with YINI for a number of years, what impact has YINI had on your students through the years?
Alan - There’s no doubt in mind that these students blossomed over the course of the year. They have challenging projects, they adapt to the protocol of the working environment, they have responsibilities as an employee, they observe business in practice, etc. It’s important to point out – they are not job shadowing, they are doing ‘real’ work. The outcome is simple, they develop –fast! Added to this is the academic element of the Management qualification, they also receive during this experience. Working in groups, networking, meeting deadlines, preparing coursework, etc. - these all lay an excellent foundation for their forthcoming university studies.
I have noticed that the students who have had a YINI experience stand out among their peers. They understand the value and importance of ‘relevant’ work experience. They don’t see the summer vacation as a holiday period; they see it as time for industry, time for further development. By the time they reach the graduate job market (if they haven’t already found graduate work from a placement provider) they have developed such strong personal profiles, they are often the students who come to us with 2 or 3 job offers and wish to discuss the most appropriate offer. They are not looking at the salary in the first instance, they understand the job market well enough to know they have to look at which organisation can provide them with the best development opportunity e.g. support, chartered status, lifelong learning, international experience, management responsibility from an early stage and mentoring support.
The students are often on vocational, accredited courses. The vast majority of the students I work with study engineering and subsequently enter the profession. I think YINI reinforces their career aspirations. Graduates of YINI know what they are getting themselves into! It’s encouraging to see a number of female students graduating from YINI. Hopefully this will contribute to a greater number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students making their way onto engineering degree programmes, and subsequently into industry.
EDT- With the above in mind how are you advising them on furthering their careers?
Alan- I advise them to work with their Careers Adviser from week 1 of year 1 of their studies. Whilst they will see me in classes at the early stage of their studies I want the students to take responsibility for their own career development. They are encouraged to meet with me on a 1 on 1 basis and to review and evaluate their development regularly throughout their studies. They are also encouraged to engage with the ‘wider’ university to allow them to maximise on their experience e.g. join clubs and societies, engage in sports, seek out entrepreneurial opportunities on-campus, identify community based projects, and take up positions of responsibility. All of these contribute to the university experience, whilst developing their profile and ultimately their potential in the job market - my main focus is to help them to develop a strong profile.
EDT- How would you describe YINI to other schools who are not involved already?
Alan- YINI is a programme that has remained consistently strong over many years. It’s well tried and tested - it works! Just ask the alumni from this programme and look at where they are today in their careers. If schools choose to overlook YINI they are doing their students a significant disservice in my opinion.
If you have just finished your A-Levels and cannot decide on the next step, why don’t you look into a Year in Industry placement and equip your CV experience that will help you to stand out! Find out more information here.