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Sandwich year: A chance to try some different fillings

Published on July 14, 2021

Graduate Environmental Consultant Poppy Grange and Assistant Environmental Consultant Charlotte Musa from RSK’s Environmental impact assessment, Planning and Design team (EPD) have both taken part in year in industry placements with RSK. But what are the benefits of taking a year out from academic study? Poppy and Charlotte explain…

A year in industry, otherwise known as a ‘sandwich year’, is when a university student takes a year out of their academic studies to work as a full-time member of staff in an organisation, before returning to university to finish their degree. This is usually completed between the second and third year of an undergraduate course but can also be completed during a master’s degree.

“When first looking into going to university, I looked for those that offered a sandwich course so I could do a placement year,” Charlotte explains. “Doing a year in industry can give you valuable experience in a sector you are already interested in, but working in a multidisciplinary consultancy such as RSK can also give you an insight into careers that you may not have considered or roles you didn’t know existed.”

Completing a year in industry is a great way to break up your time at university while still learning and developing new skills that will make you stand out from other graduates. “I found that upon my return to university I was more capable and experienced, especially in my leadership roles and when presenting in front of my peers,” commented Poppy. “This was because I was given the responsibility to work on live projects throughout my placement. This included project management tasks and liaising with clients. I had a much better understanding of where my academic work fits into real world situations and went back to university with more confidence and direction.”

A year in industry will benefit your degree’s standing, thus increasing your employment prospects, and will give your final year some direction. You can spend your placement year discovering where your real interests lie and collecting data for your dissertation, which you can then take back and study as part of your degree.

“My placement has been different from others due to COVID and having to work from home. However, this hasn’t taken away from the experience and I have still been able to go on site and involve myself in tenders and projects alike,” said Charlotte. “I was able to visit Brent Cross, a railway line site in London, and experience what it is like to work alongside other companies and how an environmental manager fits into such large-scale projects. As there are so many different businesses under the umbrella of RSK, there is plenty of opportunity to work in whatever sector you find interest in.”

A year in industry doesn’t have to be in the same place you are studying at university, you could choose to move back home for a year or even explore a new part of the country. RSK has more than 100 offices across the UK, most of which offer year in industry placements in a wide variety of disciplines such as environmental impact assessment and planning, landscape architecture, acoustics, air quality, transport and archaeology.

“I finish my placement in a few months and it has helped give me some direction for what to do next. I’m going back to university to finish my degree this September and hope to use what I have learned this year to my advantage,” continues Poppy. “After finishing my degree, it would be great to return to RSK and continue in this industry. What I have found on completing this placement year is that even if I hadn’t wanted to come back, the opportunities I have been provided with and the connections I have made have been invaluable and will make graduating a lot less daunting.”

We both agree that our time as year in industry students has been invaluable and would encourage any student wanting to develop skills and grow as an individual to look into the opportunities available within their sector.

For information on RSK’s year in industry placement opportunities please visit the careers section of the website.

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