Work Shadowing

Nicholas Hill - Chief Executive Officer

By: Nicholas Hill
Chief Executive Officer

31st January 2019

Home » University

Talking to some sixth formers doing STEM subjects in school recently brought to my attention the issue of work experience or work shadowing for the first time. Work shadowing is a means of helping students understand what the world of work is like, and perhaps also learn something specific about their subject area of interest, through one week spent in the workplace. Schools are apparently pushed by the government to support this, so the practice has become quite commonplace. Our nearest school puts one week aside in the lower sixth form for work shadowing every year, after exams.

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to find an engineering or technology company that engages in or supports work experience in this area (Cambridge), in spite of the plethora of such companies. It appears that many companies either state explicitly that they don’t offer such placements, don’t respond to requests at all or gave a flat ‘no’. Some say that they do support work shadowing, but only for children of their own employees. I have no idea whether this experience is typical of employers in all sectors, but I rather doubt it, given the numbers of students finding places.

All this made me consider Plextek’s policy on work experience – which has historically been aligned with the experiences I’d heard about, turning down any request for reasons that presumably seemed sensible enough. While supporting work experience undoubtedly generates some additional administrative load, and will put a slight ‘drag’ on the productivity of whichever staff are being shadowed, it seems to me that this is something that engineering and technology companies should be doing.

I’d be the first to complain about the poor numbers of students studying STEM subjects at University, especially in electronics (see my previous blog on the subject). If work experience is a way of showing a few sixth formers what an exciting, interesting career this can be, we should be grasping the opportunity with both hands, and doing a full-on selling job!

I’ve often felt that a problem with electronics is that it is becoming increasingly obscure to those on the outside. Why choose to study something that you have no understanding of or exposure to? Well here’s a way of demystifying it a little.

Last summer we accepted a small number of work shadowing placements for the first time. We gained some good insight into how to engage with sixth formers in an effective way without putting too much drain on internal resources. Next year we’ll be putting more formal arrangements in place with our local sixth form school.

Talking to some sixth formers doing STEM subjects in school recently brought to my attention the issue of work experience or work shadowing for the first time. Work shadowing is a means of helping students understand what the world of work is like, and perhaps also learn something specific about their subject area of interest, through one week spent in the workplace. Schools are apparently pushed by the government to support this, so the practice has become quite commonplace. Our nearest school puts one week aside in the lower sixth form for work shadowing every year, after exams.

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to find an engineering or technology company that engages in or supports work experience in this area (Cambridge), in spite of the plethora of such companies. It appears that many companies either state explicitly that they don’t offer such placements, don’t respond to requests at all or gave a flat ‘no’. Some say that they do support work shadowing, but only for children of their own employees. I have no idea whether this experience is typical of employers in all sectors, but I rather doubt it, given the numbers of students finding places.

All this made me consider Plextek’s policy on work experience – which has historically been aligned with the experiences I’d heard about, turning down any request for reasons that presumably seemed sensible enough. While supporting work experience undoubtedly generates some additional administrative load, and will put a slight ‘drag’ on the productivity of whichever staff are being shadowed, it seems to me that this is something that engineering and technology companies should be doing.

I’d be the first to complain about the poor numbers of students studying STEM subjects at University, especially in electronics (see my previous blog on the subject). If work experience is a way of showing a few sixth formers what an exciting, interesting career this can be, we should be grasping the opportunity with both hands, and doing a full-on selling job!

I’ve often felt that a problem with electronics is that it is becoming increasingly obscure to those on the outside. Why choose to study something that you have no understanding of or exposure to? Well here’s a way of demystifying it a little.

Last summer we accepted a small number of work shadowing placements for the first time. We gained some good insight into how to engage with sixth formers in an effective way without putting too much drain on internal resources. Next year we’ll be putting more formal arrangements in place with our local sixth form school.

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Plextek: An Intern’s View

Plextek: An Intern’s View

Ben Skinner - Summer Intern

By: Ben Skinner
Summer Intern

12th July 2017

Home » University

With the sun shining down over us, at least 20% of the time, means it must be summer! For many students, this season offers a time to relax, head home and retreat from the lecture halls and library rooms they’ve inhabited for the last ten months. However, for others the summer offers something much more, instead of a retreat, this time offers a chance to leap into the professional world and a chance to put into practice their skills gained at university.

Many of my colleagues at university believe there is only one reason anyone does an internship, money, however, this is far from the truth. For me, I see an internship as a way to gauge my abilities and apply my knowledge. In my opinion, the university system is very good at being able to teach someone the theory of electronics and how it can be implemented, but for the large part, you don’t see how this technological and theoretical knowledge is being used in the real world. In short, internships fill this gap and offer the chance to work on projects with real-world applications.

For three summers, I have been changing scene from Southampton’s campus to the office environment here in Cambridge. Moving from education to the workplace is more than just a location change – it’s an entire state of mind change. In education, any task a student is assigned to do has already been done and proven to work. A great example of this is a project I had to do in my first year, we had to construct a traffic light controller out of logic gates, something that has been done thousands of times before and will, no doubt, be done a thousand times more. Whereas here the projects have not been done before, we’re paving a new path and there’s no mark scheme to follow! It’s exciting stuff.

Now that I have you sold on the idea of internships, your next question is, no doubt, why Plextek? As a consulting firm, a huge range of different projects are worked on here, utilising all sorts of technology for clients in multiple market sectors. From highly accurate radars, capable of picking up a person walking two kilometres away, to sensors that detect if a car is present in a parking bay or not, the work here is hugely diverse and interesting. Over my three years, I’ve worked on all sorts of interesting projects, doing things such as developing a controller for a scanning device to developing a computer vision system; I even spent some time redecorating the office ceiling with QR codes!

I would be lying if I were to say that I only come here for the projects. This company has an amazingly friendly and welcoming atmosphere, everyone is more than happy to spare some time to talk about the projects they’re working on and to offer helpful advice on the projects you’re working on. It’s this supportive and friendly community I love and look forward to entering when my time at university ends.

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With the sun shining down over us, at least 20% of the time, means it must be summer! For many students, this season offers a time to relax, head home and retreat from the lecture halls and library rooms they’ve inhabited for the last ten months. However, for others the summer offers something much more, instead of a retreat, this time offers a chance to leap into the professional world and a chance to put into practice their skills gained at university.

Many of my colleagues at university believe there is only one reason anyone does an internship, money, however, this is far from the truth. For me, I see an internship as a way to gauge my abilities and apply my knowledge. In my opinion, the university system is very good at being able to teach someone the theory of electronics and how it can be implemented, but for the large part, you don’t see how this technological and theoretical knowledge is being used in the real world. In short, internships fill this gap and offer the chance to work on projects with real-world applications.

For three summers, I have been changing scene from Southampton’s campus to the office environment here in Cambridge. Moving from education to the workplace is more than just a location change – it’s an entire state of mind change. In education, any task a student is assigned to do has already been done and proven to work. A great example of this is a project I had to do in my first year, we had to construct a traffic light controller out of logic gates, something that has been done thousands of times before and will, no doubt, be done a thousand times more. Whereas here the projects have not been done before, we’re paving a new path and there’s no mark scheme to follow! It’s exciting stuff.

Now that I have you sold on the idea of internships, your next question is, no doubt, why Plextek? As a consulting firm, a huge range of different projects are worked on here, utilising all sorts of technology for clients in multiple market sectors. From highly accurate radars, capable of picking up a person walking two kilometres away, to sensors that detect if a car is present in a parking bay or not, the work here is hugely diverse and interesting. Over my three years, I’ve worked on all sorts of interesting projects, doing things such as developing a controller for a scanning device to developing a computer vision system; I even spent some time redecorating the office ceiling with QR codes!

I would be lying if I were to say that I only come here for the projects. This company has an amazingly friendly and welcoming atmosphere, everyone is more than happy to spare some time to talk about the projects they’re working on and to offer helpful advice on the projects you’re working on. It’s this supportive and friendly community I love and look forward to entering when my time at university ends.

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