It’s a win-win situation: Ellie Cohen on work placements
“I’m really excited about it. I’ve really landed on my feet…”
We meet Ellie Cohen (Chemical Engineering with Environmental Engineering, 2016) in a bustling café on campus, just days before she is about to embark on her first graduate job. Excited and prepared for the challenge ahead, Ellie has secured a role as a process engineer at Mondelez, the company that owns Cadburys, Kraft and Philadelphia among others. It’s a glittering start to a career for Ellie – but without taking part in a work placement as a student at Nottingham, it’s fair to say she wouldn’t be taking on this new role.
I don’t know if I’d have even made it to the assessment centre without my placement! The age-old problem which has always faced new graduates is still a big factor in finding a job today – work experience is absolutely essential. It shows you are proactive, and the increased confidence and practical skills you gain makes you much more attractive to companies. My work placement has given me a huge edge – I think I would have really struggled without it.
Students like Ellie need your help
Can you help a Nottingham student get onto the career ladder by providing a work placement or internship in your organisation? Find out more.
Ellie's story - learning on the job
Securing a role at British Gypsum, Ellie’s industrial placement put her at the heart of the company’s environmental department and responsible for a wide project portfolio. From working with process engineers to ensure the company stayed in line with responsible environmental policies to developing a new reporting system to help the company increase the efficiency of energy management across their sites, the placement was an immersive experience.
“My role included all sorts of activities, and seeing what I learnt at University put into practice was really enjoyable. One of the more significant projects that I ended up working on was helping to train people within the company about what we were doing to improve energy management. I felt really, really chucked in at the deep-end – I was so scared of standing up in front of people and talking. But by the end of it I had become much more confident, which culminated in me doing a presentation for the senior managers within the company. I would have never imagined myself doing that before the placement!
“I actually had a bit of an unusual start to my work placement journey. I was studying abroad at the Malaysia Campus and wasn’t really thinking about doing a year in industry. It was only when a visiting professor from the UK campus came to discuss how important it was to employers for candidates to have experience through working in industry that I applied for a placement. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made – the placement was only for a year but it’s made an enormous difference to the way I am as a professional.”
An invaluable experience
I think placements are a win-win situation for both the student and the employer.
For a student, it brings you from being a vaguely clueless undergraduate to someone who’s actually prepared for hitting the job market. Having the opportunity to learn from people who have years of experience, learning how to manage your workload, communicate effectively with managers, operate as part of a professional environment – it’s invaluable. What has been great is that I had the opportunity to work on so many varied projects – that collective experience gave me something to talk about in every single question for my graduate job. I just wouldn’t have had that advantage without the placement.
“For employers, it’s a great way to identify promising people to feed into your company before taking them on as a graduate. You can kind of ‘try before you buy’ – if you take them on as an employee after graduation you already know they’re going to be a strong asset to the company. Plus, work placements are a great opportunity to put some energy into projects that haven’t been prioritised or are perhaps slightly more experimental because you aren’t having to pay a fully-fledged engineer for example. Students offer a fresh perspective and new ideas – which can help solve tricky issues by thinking outside of the box. I was the first placement student British Gypsum had taken on, and they’re now on their third placement student this year. To have gone from no university industrial placements at all to multiple placements in the next year shows the value of the scheme for everyone involved.”
Help more students get on the career ladder
As we leave Ellie to prepare for her first day on the job, it’s clear she has a bright future ahead. And now, we need your help to give even more students the opportunity to take part in work experience opportunities.
From work shadowing to industrial placement years, there are a range of ways employers and organisations can provide work experience and internship opportunities for our students across all subject areas. Can you help us? Find out more and register your interest online.
Provide a work placement