Education Undergraduate work placements

Undergraduate Work Placements – Their importance

Desire amongst students for work experience has never been higher. Competition for employment is fierce, especially for final year students looking to enter the world of work. It’s essential for students to continue to arm themselves with the skills, tools and knowledge to increase their employability. Undertaking a work experience scheme is increasingly becoming a fast track to securing a place on undergraduate work placements.

Sadly, attending university and achieving that degree alone is no longer enough to secure a role upon graduation. Let’s face it, things have been heading this way for a while. It’s essential for students to take employability prospects into their own hands by undertaking an undergraduate work placements scheme. In today’s changing workplace, is to begin bolstering your CV from year one. Undergraduate work placements, internships, or insight schemes are one of the best ways to achieve this.

To help you, we’ve compiled a no-nonsense guide below to help you stay one step ahead of the competition.

Undergraduate work placements

So, what is an undergraduate work experience scheme?

An undergraduate work experience scheme involves taking time out of your university holidays to visit an employer. You can knock up some experience winning you a combination of work experience and degree study that puts you ahead. You get paid and come out of it with a glowing mark on your CV to show for it too. There are also many different opportunities that students can take up in their first year:

Undergraduate work placements

Terminology: Industrial placement, sandwich year, year in industry, year-long internships, undergraduate work placements

An undergraduate work placements scheme is a structured programme where you spend a full academic year working for one company. You act and are paid as a full-time employee before returning to university for your final year.

Undergraduate work placements


Terminology: Work experience scheme – usually paid but depends on the industry

A formal and structured programme that typically lasts from four to 12 weeks over the summer period. Employers use such schemes to identify future talent and will introduce you to the company during your programme.

Vacation Schemes

Terminology: Vac scheme, work experience

Vacation schemes are a short period of work experience, specifically in a law firm. They typically usually run for one to two weeks. Many law firms will use this time as a way of identifying recruits for their training contracts.


Terminology: Short-term insight scheme, open day

Insight days or weeks are primarily for first-year students; however many are open to all undergraduates. Insights give you a taster of the company or industry and often take place throughout the year. They’re used to aid self-selection and spot future talent.

The facts and figures

We know that from a survey of 250 companies advertising undergraduate opportunities, over 60 per cent of those companies will aim to retain the interns and placement students that they take on, offering them positions on graduate schemes. As a result, competition is even stiffer for those who haven’t completed any work experience during their degrees. Spaces on these graduate schemes are increasingly open only to those who have already completed some form of work experience with the company.

This figure rises to 75 per cent if you want to secure a position at a leading investment bank. And, half of the training contracts for leading law firms are filled with graduates who have already completed a vacation scheme with the firm (Source: High Fliers Survey 2013).

The benefits of work experience and undergraduate work placements

You’ll find out what it’s like to work in business. It’s not all about securing the role; it’s about knowing what to expect, learning the skills you’ll need to succeed in the future and experiencing the real working world. You’ll learn a lot of theory while studying at university, so entering a business is a fantastic way to see how all of the methods and models you learn about work in the field. Finding out how you work, who you work well with and in what areas you need to improve will help you decide if it’s the right industry and role for you.

Upon finishing university and beginning your job search, you’ll have a one in 65 chance of coming out on top of the competition for each role you interview.

With a range of work experiences in your back pocket, you’ll be able to wipe away the competition with all of the transferable skills that you’ve picked up from communication, time management, systems and commercial awareness that you’ve experienced in real situations.

Having useful and positive examples to back up your skill set will be invaluable, as your competitors which haven’t used their imitative will may find it a little tougher to convey their skill set in such a practical way.

Undergraduate work placements

Where to look for a role?

Check out company websites and job sites such as who specialise in advertising undergraduate schemes across a range of industries.

From Accenture to Warner Brothers, you can search for hundreds of opportunities and apply. What’s more is that for every student who is looking for an undergraduate scheme you can search through over 25,000 unique peer-to-peer reviews from people who have been there and done it before, helping you to ensure that you can find the right role that’s suited to your needs.

Your university can also be a big help. Lots of universities are increasingly teaming up with international counterparts. Take advantage of your careers service and work experience or placement officer if you have one.

They have a wealth of experience and will be able to answer any questions you might have with regards to online applications, specific requirements, interviews and cover letters. Make sure you attend careers fairs too as you’ll have the chance to meet some of the employers face to face.

Take full advantage of reading publications (including this one!) to give you an insight into what type of opportunities are available to you in the market. Check out industry-specific publications too so that you can identify which exact skills you need to develop for a career in your chosen field. Good luck in your search!

This article was written by Francesca Hall –

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