Get on the ladder: engineering
Insider tips on how to get relevant experience
If you’re fascinated by how things work and you love to solve problems, a career in Engineering could be perfect for you. As with any career, though, you’ll need relevant skills and experience to stand out from the crowd and land your dream job. These insider tips, given by an industry expert, will help you to jump in and get started.
Who works in Engineering?
There are many different types of engineers, but at its core, engineering is about finding, creating and designing solutions for real-world problems.
Here are some of the different types of engineering:
- Mechanical engineers design and build machines, robotics or vehicles
- Chemical engineers use knowledge of chemistry to create products that are useful in the real-world, like cleaning solutions or fuel
- Civil engineers design and build infrastructures like bridges, roads or buildings
- Energy engineers design and create equipment which uses electricity, from working on power stations to tiny microchips
And here are some different roles that you can do within each field of engineering:
- Design engineers use CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) tools to create a physical solution to meet a need.
- Development engineers take designs and test them. These tests often compare different calibrations, settings, or hardware variants. Development engineers are responsible for improving the performance and reliability of a product.
- Data engineers work with the results of products on test and in the field. Global digitalisation has increased the amount of data from products being used by customers and allows engineers to assess how products perform in the real world. Data engineers use this data to prevent product failures and influence future design.
What skills will you need to demonstrate?
Employers in the Engineering sector will often look for:
- Problem solving and Creativity - engineering is all about finding new solutions to problems. You need to use your creativity to turn impossible tasks into profitable exercises.
- Teamwork - whether you’re giving instructions, carrying them out, or presenting ideas to other team members, you need to be a strong team player.
- Numeracy - you need a good understanding of both mathematic and scientific principles to work in Engineering. With that being said, however, it’s often more beneficial to have a basic grasp of maths (like ratios, fractions, powers) which you can apply to various methods (like dimensional analysis), than more complex ideas (like calculus) which are typically used in more theoretical branches.
- Computer languages - you’ll be working with computers to handle data and to automate tasks, so you’ll need to be familiar with high-level computer languages, like MATLAB, Python, R, and so on.
How can you get experience?
Through school, college, or university
- Does your school have a robotics, engineering, or STEM club? If not, have a chat with your maths or science teacher about setting one up! You’ll be able to take part in challenges, learn things you wouldn’t find out in class, and build your skills.
- Enter an engineering competition. If you’re at school or college, ask your teachers to get involved in The Great Science Share for Schools. There are six weeks worth of activities you can get involved in, you’ll be learning alongside students across the UK and worldwide, and you could have your questions answered by top scientists like Brian Cox! If you’re at university, you can get involved in Formula Student as part of your degree and test yourself with challenges at Silverstone! Or you can sign up to the Railway Challenge to live test your skills!
- Join a student society. If you’re at university, whether your passion is aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, or electrical engineering, you’ll very likely find a student society that suits your interests.
- Develop other skills. If your school, college, or university is short on STEM opportunities, get involved with a sports team or music group – either will demonstrate your ability to work well as part of a team.
- Volunteer. See what’s happening in your local area and get involved! Your volunteer placement doesn’t even have to be STEM related – if you’re passionate about the environment, for example, get involved with Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. It will still look great on applications, you’re likely to pick up some useful transferable skills, and if you do end up working in environmental engineering, you’ll have tons of experience!
- Get MOOCing. Head over to Unifrog’s MOOCs tool, select Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or all three and learn something new! MOOCs, or ‘Massive Open Online Courses’, are often free and they’re a great way to pick up industry-specific skills. If you want to develop computer language skills, you should also check out Free Code Camp.
- Attend EXPOs. EXPOs are large, international exhibitions, and many are specific to a certain career sector or industry. They’re a great opportunity to talk to different engineering companies and find out what their work involves, as well as give out your CV.
- Get some work experience! Workplace experience can include anything from a day spent shadowing an engineer through to a 12-month industrial placement. It could be paid or voluntary – it all counts! Many companies in the Engineering sector will take on students for work placements, even if just for a week. You’ll get valuable insight into working in a particular area of engineering, and be able to try out different areas to help you decide on the right path for you.
Remember, you can use Unifrog’s Activities tool to record any academic or extracurricular activities you’ve done and link these to skill on the Skills tool. This makes it easy to use these examples in any job or education applications you make after leaving school or college.
Routes into the industry
Internships during your degree
If you plan to study engineering at university, look out for degree programmes that have an internship or year in industry built in. You’ll learn valuable skills, build your experience, and if you impress your employer, they might even offer you a job after you graduate!
If you’re certain that you want a career in this industry, consider doing an apprenticeship. There are usually a range of paid apprenticeships across different areas of engineering giving you experience, a qualification, and lots of great contacts! Use Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool to begin your search.
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