Boosting confidence, knowledge and CV through an internship

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I’ve learnt how to apply my knowledge from university in real-life situations and how the real engineering world functions as a business. Relevant skills I’ll need to be successful in my career

John Nicola BENG (Hons) Automotive Engineering, role: Mechanical Engineer Intern, employer: Emvio Engineering 

Describe how you felt on your first day in your internship   

I felt excited but also on the edge as it was before I knew what I would be doing. 

What key skills have you learnt through your internship and how do they link to your course/ career goals?   

I have learnt how to apply my knowledge from university in real-life situations and how the real engineering world functions in terms of business. These are both relevant as in my career I will need both these skills to be successful. 

Would you recommend other UWE Bristol students take up an internship and why?   

I would highly recommend other UWE Bristol students to take up an internship as it will boost confidence, knowledge and cv in the subject. 

Key skills learnt through an internship

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I would absolutely recommend taking up an internship, particularly with the support that the UWE scheme provides…While academic courses provide you with a basis in the necessary skills and knowledge for a career in industry, they cannot simulate the reality of the world of work, or prepare you for the expectations, standards, conventions, collaborations and consequences of working on real-world projects 

Brendan Ashby BENG (Hons) Architecture and Environmental Engineering, role: Architecture Intern, employer: Box Twenty 

Describe how you felt on your first day in your Internship 

I experienced a balanced combination of nerves and excitement on the first day of the internship. Obviously, there is a lot to set up and a lot to take in on the first day, and I felt as if I somewhat rushed through some of the administrative induction processes in my eagerness to get working on projects and prove my worth. The company itself was very welcoming and small scale with around 20 employees, which suited me as I was able to develop relationships with all staff and to benefit from advice and expertise from a range of areas and perspectives. Box Twenty make a point of encouraging an active social programme to facilitate team building and office energy. In my first week, I joined a team bike ride, which helped enormously to make me feel more comfortable. One thing I found very challenging during the initial weeks of the internship was having a substantial amount of coursework to do for a module resit. I would encourage any prospective interns to avoid this, if possible, as it is extremely helpful to allow yourself time in the evenings and weekends at the early stages to assimilate all the new information.   

What key skills have you learnt through your internship and how do they link to your course/ career goals?   

My internship was for a building services engineering firm, but construction projects are in collaboration with a wide range of related disciplines, so much of my work involved design team meetings and coordinating with architects, clients, planners, other engineering disciplines, utility providers, etc. One thing I have taken from this is the value of relationship building in this context, and the value of asking questions and raising concerns in order to share and accumulate detail and knowledge, and to clarify and coordinate all parties on the same wavelength. On a specific note, related to this as a building services engineer, the role as a consultant is frequently to check, warn and inform designers of spatial requirements and conflict issues, to avoid serious problems further into the process. This requires confidence in your own knowledge to raise concerns, but it is always better to speak up. The spatial coordination processes involved are often complex and have knock-on effects on other professionals’ work, so consistency and clarity of communication is key to this. The nature of construction design is iterative, so one valuable thing I learned is the necessity to design at an appropriate level of detail for the stage in order to avoid wasting time.  

I worked a lot on one project which I helped to develop through formal design stages during my time with the company. Much of my work was conducted on software such as AutoCad, BluBeam Revu and Revit, and I gained some very valuable knowledge in terms of drawing standards and modelling processes. Above all, experience of the collaborative workflow processes and practical familiarity with RIBA stages of work I feel will stand me in very good stead in industry. I am more encouraged than before towards the engineering side of the industry. However, the internship was invaluable in giving me an understanding of the perspective of all related disciplines.    

Would you recommend other UWE Bristol students take up an internship and why?   

I would absolutely recommend that other UWE Bristol students take up an internship, particularly with the support that the UWE scheme provides. While academic courses provide you with a basis in the necessary skills and knowledge for a career in industry, they cannot simulate the reality of the world of work, or prepare you for the expectations, standards, conventions, collaborations and consequences of working on real-world projects. An internship experience provides a great deal of clarity on future career plans by showing you not only which aspects of an industry correspond to your ambitions and skillsets, but also those which are less appealing. I feel this view of working roles is invaluable in preparing you for both the choice and the reality of future career paths.  

UWE Internships – a great way to spend the summer, gaining experience and money

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I would absolutely recommend the UWE internships, as a great way to gain experience which can really help you to find a job when you graduate

Lunda Dimbelolo BA (Hons) Drama and Acting, Internship role: Assistant Director Intern, employer: Bristol School of Acting 

Describe how you felt on your first day in your internship

I felt quite nervous but quickly found my feet at the drama school. I was welcomed by the project leader Sam Bridges, who explained what we would be doing which helped to clarify the role. It did feel as though the advertised was different to the reality, in good and bad ways. I found myself met with challenges as the actors were aged 16-18 and some had behavioural problems, but once a rapport had been built this proved to be a positive challenge and taught me a lot about observing behaviour, which is great when directing.   

What key skills have you learnt through your internship and how do they link to your course/ career goals?   

 Directing tools, exercises, people management. As well as a glossary of contacts that I can use, work has been offered.  

Would you recommend other UWE Bristol students take up an internship and why?   

I would absolutely recommend the UWE internships, as it’s a great way to spend the summer, gaining experience and money. It also really helps for final year having worked in the role you aim to graduate in.  

How I got a great graduate role as an international student

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Abdulbasit Yekeen, B.Eng Hons Robotics graduate, talks through his UWE journey and graduate experience

‘If you are very good at what you do, building a career should be the least of your worries’

Since childhood, I have been curious about  technology and engineering. Designing electronic circuits and writing intelligent software were all I could think about as I grew older. I was very fascinated by robots and machines so studying robotics was a no-brainer. Many thought I had chosen a degree that was too specialized and that building a career in it will be very difficult. I was more than ready to prove them wrong because I believed that if you are very good at what you do, building a career should be the least of your worries.

‘At the end of the year, I had one of the best results’

Due to visa delays, I came a month late to the university. Various deadlines and lectures were already missed and others were very close. I had to spend long hours in the lab and also understanding various complex concepts fast to submit the assignments. My course mates were very kind and they assisted me in catching up with the rest of the class. At the end of my first year, I managed to get a good grade. During the summer holiday, I spent most of my time programming because this was my weakest skill. The second year commenced and I put in more effort into understanding every subject. The pandemic prevented us from doing various exciting practicals which could be used to demonstrate deep understanding with potential employers. At the end of the year, I had one of the best results, and getting a placement to apply my knowledge was the plan.

‘I reviewed my rejection letters and researched the skills employers were looking for. I think I may have actually applied to almost three hundred jobs’

I applied for several placement opportunities, and none were successful. The pandemic drastically reduced the number of placement opportunities and the few available were highly competitive. Over the holiday, I reviewed my rejection letters and researched the skills employers were looking for in potential candidates. My review showed that I needed to perform more practical projects and also learn C++(programming language). I found a good C++ on Udacity and spent several weeks mastering the concepts of the language. I also did various practical projects which could be showcased to potential employers.

Within that period, I got a two-week International Talent Internship with Milbotix and also following this a junior firmware engineer role with a company called DOMIN. I was very excited since this was my first experience working as an engineer. The Internship with Milbotix made me apply various skills I had learned personally and at the university. This internship opened the door to a lot of offers I did not even apply for. Every now and then, someone called me on LinkedIn about a potential opportunity somewhere. The results came out and guess what? I got a first-class and most of us graduated with a minimum of 2:1. Remember I said at the start that many thought getting a job was going to be extremely difficult. Well, I proved them wrong. I graduated with a good grade and got a great job in my career of choice.  I have started the role and so far I am enjoying it. I hope to get involved with more amazing technologies and one day start a Tech company. Take this with you, If I can achieve it then you definitely can.

‘Take this with you, If I can achieve it then you definitely can.

How I used my placement year to improve my confidence

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Déborah Cardoso Ribas, a Creative and Professional Writing student, shares her experience working in the UWE Careers and Enterprise department

I came to UWE Bristol to pursue my passion for writing after leaving a Chemical Engineering degree at Edinburgh University. Breaking the mould of studying a subject that would give me a profession, to studying a subject that I am passionate about and can make a career of, was a bold but scary choice. Not at all popular within my family. I thought that doing a placement would validate my decision and help me understand what to do after graduating.

With a vocational degree like mine, there is no set career path. I have an array of skills that enable me to work in more creative settings, such as publishing. And equally are an asset in corporate areas like marketing and social media.

Having engaged before with the Student Ventures (Enterprise) team to develop a business to support beginner fiction writers, I knew I could be an entrepreneur. Still, I lacked the confidence to do it full-time. Therefore, I also wanted to use my placement year to make an informed decision. So, when I saw on Instagram that the Student Ventures team was recruiting, I did not hesitate and applied!

Application and Duties

The whole process was very smooth. The first stage was to fill in an application, describing my skills based on the job requirements. I was not asked to provide a cover letter or a CV, to which I was grateful as I didn’t have relevant work experience at the time. As part of the interview, I presented the resolution to a social media question and did an in-tray exercise.

To prepare, I used the UWE Careers Toolkit and booked a one-to-one appointment with a Careers Coach who advised me to use the STAR technique – very useful to answer competency-based questions in a story format.

A team of 5 professionals, smiling with their arms around each other
Student Ventures Team: Megan Griffins, Lewis Nicholson, Callum Usher-Dodd, Gabi Cox and Déborah Cardoso Ribas

I was offered the job on the same day as the interview, and a month later, in September, I started my role. Initially, I worked from home due to COVID, completing most of the training and induction online.

When the academic year began, I started working on campus in a split role between Careers and Student Ventures.  Overall, I had three main tasks besides managing and creating content for their social media channels:

  1. Frenchay Careers front desk, eight hours per week. I dealt with queries from students and supported the coaches with their appointments. I gained valuable experience in customer service and CV building. And I became more confident showcasing my skills both in a written and oral format.
  2. Bower Ashton Careers Team support, once a week. I promoted the services and supported finding job opportunities for ACE students. I learned about labour marketing information and strengthened my Microsoft Office IT skills.
  3. Student Ventures. I supported the team to deliver workshops and events, manage the inbox, and developed a personal project of my choice – a Brand Bible. I used my copywriting and scriptwriting skills to develop the Brand Bible, a document entailing key information about the service and how to best represent it internally and externally. I also increased my knowledge of independent businesses, mentoring and coaching.

I was surprised how much freedom I was given in the Student Ventures team; I remember being asked what I wanted to do: talk to students, work in the background, create content, deliver workshops… And I kind of did it all. Once I had done my day-to-day tasks, I was free to experiment and explore new ways of engaging our community or pitch an idea to my colleagues. And even though I was “just” a placement student, I felt extremely valued and that what I was doing was important.

Learning Opportunities

My line manager, Gabi Cox, encouraged me to pursue my personal interests, which led me to seek training in Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI). I became an EDI champion, engaging my team in conversations about the topic and actively promoting and communicating EDI initiatives.  

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone by delivering a talk to the Team Entrepreneurship cohort about Storytelling in Business: how to translate stories into copy that connects with audiences. I am now in the process of submitting a proposal to deliver a package of talks in the next academic year about Creativity in Business.

When working within Careers & Enterprise, you quickly understand the importance of planning and setting up objectives to achieve your short and long-term career goals. This year gave me the reassurance that I made the right decision by coming to UWE to study Creative and Professional Writing. Today, I feel more confident in my skills and the professional I am becoming. And although I am not sure yet if I will be a full-time entrepreneur after third year, I know which steps to take to start earning an income from my writing.

If you are considering doing a placement, I say go for it! Grab every opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and explore the possibilities. Most importantly, ask for help, do not be ashamed if you encounter challenges. It can get tough at times. It’s not easy to balance work commitments and course-related activities. But once you overcome the obstacles and reflect on all your achievements, you will be very proud of yourself.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

My Legal Career Journey So Far

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Charlotte Colvin, a Law LLB student, talks about her career journey so far and what she might have done differently

I started studying at UWE in 2018 and was unsure of where to begin in order to get the kind of work experience I wanted. I had very little knowledge of the legal industry at the time and was very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available about a career in Law. I ended up applying to the Aspiring Solicitor’s Foundation scheme, which is aimed at First Year students and attended some of their events. It was very intimidating to approach lawyers and ask them about their career path, especially when I felt that my background was so different to theirs.

I began the Aspiring Solicitor’s Aspire programme in my second year and started attending firm open days, travelling anywhere from London to Birmingham. I completely rewrote my CV, learnt more about interview techniques and brushed up on my commercial awareness. By chance, I signed up for the Aspiring Solicitors Commercial Awareness competition and, surprisingly, reached the Final in January of that year. I was also trying to juggle multiple jobs and extra-curricular activities with my course load. I found it very challenging to handle all of these commitments, but I was beginning to make progress and had begun to see some improvement in the results of my vacation scheme applications and was hoping to secure a placement year at a law firm.

Then coronavirus hit, and the world shut down. I was devastated that all of the work I had put into making progress had seemingly gone to waste. Luckily, I managed to secure a placement at UWE, working within the Careers and Enterprise department.

desk set up at home

If I were able to go back to my first year, I would have approached it slightly differently. Whilst I was very worried about having enough work experience to demonstrate my skillset, I did end up burning out multiple times. I would probably take on fewer commitments to allow myself to look after myself better at university. I also would have contacted the Careers department in my first year for some guidance, as I was coming from a place of very limited knowledge. If I had some guidance sooner, I think I may have had a more structured approach to my professional development.

I would also have been more proactive in my search for shadowing roles, as it is very hard to get an understanding of the day-to-day role of a lawyer without getting to spend some time in a law firm

Overall, I have managed to learn a lot in my last few years at UWE and have developed a range of transferable skills.

My work with Bristol Parks

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Dodeye Omini, Environmental Consultancy MSc Student from UWE Bristol, shares his experience of undertaking a Placement with Bristol Parks during a pandemic.

As an MSc student in Environmental Consultancy, a placement is a requirement for the award of my degree. Therefore, after completing the compulsory coursework, it was time to get a placement. I applied to as many places as I could, but they would always have a reason to turn down the application. I got frustrated, but I remained hopeful that I would find the right placement.

I attended events like the Bristol City Green Mingle on the advice of Ian Brook and Joe Barnes who supported me through the process and encouraged me to network. I attended one of the mingles and networked with employers and employees. Luckily, I met Katherine Philips whilst I was there, the Learning and Development Advisor for the Climate Change Department at Bristol City Council. She recommended a couple of organisations and opportunities that I should look into. One of these organisations was Bristol Parks who had a voluntary conservation position available.

The internship was focused on forestry conservation, particularly the conservation of the Ash tree. I was responsible for assisting in surveying the Ash tree, a species which has been marked for extinction in the future, as a result of the disturbing ash dieback disease. Bristol Parks are aiming to protect the Ash trees present in reserves and parks throughout the city to prevent the complete eradication of this species in Bristol. By surveying the trees, we will assess the status of the tree canopy to see if the disease has affected it or not before the tree officers will advise the council on the appropriate action to take.

The next phase, and most interesting, is the green area survey. Most of the green areas in Bristol are used either as parks or as growing areas for hay production. This survey will assess the species richness of the sites under our jurisdiction, consider the habitat type of the sites and send in a report to the City Council. This will inform the council if the surveyed sites need improvement and what steps can be taken to improve them.

Throughout the placement, I was able to develop my understanding of ecology, specifically UK habitat classification. After I’d completed it, I felt far more competent in classifying the type of habitat by the grass and tree species on site. I am also more aware of which species are local to the UK and which are from different regions and have found that I can name plants more quickly. After working in the parks, I decided to focus on the Ash tree for my dissertation and feel that, although I had studied it prior to my placement, I am now able to include a practical view in my writing.

I feel very fortunate because I managed to secure my placement prior to the lockdown. However, I could not start because we could not meet for a proper briefing of my role and we also were not able to gain access to parks because of government restrictions. Overall, there was a slow start and travel restrictions affected the pace of work. 

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my placement. I feel that my understanding of ecology is stronger now than it was before I undertook my placement and that I have gained a stronger sense of community whilst working in different areas of Bristol.

My journey with UWE Equity Mentoring

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Mamadou Sow, Politics and International Relations student shares his experience of getting a BAME mentor and how it led to a dream internship

Through UWE Equity, I had the opportunity to be mentored by the Policy Advisor for the Mayor of Bristol, who provided me with a great deal of insight into how the mayoral office in Bristol functions and helped me to secure a placement with the International team.  

The International team promote Bristol throughout the world and liaise particularly with twinned cities, such as Hannover and Bordeaux.  This resulted in great opportunities to be involved in meetings within and outside the Mayor’s office where real issues were being discussed and decisions made.  I also had the opportunity to shadow the Mayor several times – particularly during his meetings with the UNHCR Ambassador and during visits to deprived areas.  The team allowed me to contribute as well -  I conducted research into events in Bristol and twinned cities to help with the promotional effort. 

The placement allowed me to develop, both as a professional and an individual. I now have a strong understanding of international relations and have developed an aptitude for research. I have found that I learn well in a business environment and am quick to understand new subjects.  I also discovered areas of weakness, such as my knowledge of how local government is involved internationally.  Another aspect I was unfamiliar with was the difference between academic and corporate styles of written communication.  I worked hard to correct these weaknesses and build on my strengths.

Apart from the opportunity to see real work in action, the primary benefit of a mentoring and placement programme is the acquisition of skills that are applied in that real environment, rather than those learned in just an academic environment.  Now the placement has ended, I can see how I have gained truly practical real career skills that are rarely considered, like the appropriate distribution of resources, how to manage my time effectively, project management and how to adapt my approach by shadowing others. I have also strengthened my language skills, adapting to use both English and French when collecting data from various sites. This technical skill will benefit me greatly in future work within international relations, as will the other transferrable skills I acquired.

When I first met with my mentor, I explained my career goals of entering international diplomacy and ultimately run for the presidency of my home country (Guinea).  I further explained that I had only started speaking English – as a third language – three years ago.  He was impressed by this and my ambitions.  Clearly, he had a strong idea of what would help me on this path because the placement has substantially increased my awareness of this dimension of politics, has granted me extraordinary opportunities to witness and to participate in these efforts whilst continuing to improve my language skills.  I have gained new contacts as well – people who are happy to support my continued development and will be useful in my career ahead. Overall, the placement really highlighted the value of good leadership.  Seeing how the Mayor and the councillors dealt with issues has made me even more certain of my career aims. 

What Happens After Graduation?

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Opus Talent Solutions share their insights on how to get your first graduate role

You’re finally a graduate. You’ve completed your studies and, as someone’s bound to tell you, the world’s your oyster. Yet oysters can be tricky to get into, even if you’ve done your research and come to the table prepared. 

Finding your first graduate role can be challenging. Whether you have a highly specific career path in mind, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the options available, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost at this stage. 

Fortunately, once you find your feet, the prospect of searching for your first ‘proper job’ will quickly become a lot less intimidating. Ultimately, you need to play to your strengths, be proactive in your search, and be prepared to acknowledge and challenge your weaknesses. 

Focus on what makes you uniquely suitable for the role in question – don’t be afraid to talk yourself up!

Your degree will form a huge part of your CV, so it’s important to highlight the key elements of your studies that will showcase your skills, particularly those that may not be immediately apparent.  For example, a mathematics degree may demonstrate your ability to handle complex problems with abstract reasoning, while pharmacology might imply attention to detail and a methodical approach. 

You probably have a limited work history, likely in unrelated areas to your studies, but if you can write a few lines that show development in each role, i.e. “I learnt how to X, Y and Z, and took on extra responsibility for 1, 2, 3”, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the competition. 

Honesty about your ability and achievements demonstrates that you’re capable, forthright, and confident in your strengths; all attractive attributes as far as employers are concerned. 

From my experience of talking to thousands of grads, I’d say 90% of them never once visited their university careers office… why?! 

Trained professionals are sat, waiting for someone to knock on the door, so they’ll be super keen to impart their wisdom and point you in the right direction. Make the most of them while you still can!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toggle-on “open to new opportunities” on your LinkedIn account. You can find this under the privacy tab of your account settings. To make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Seek out your ideal opportunities and directly approach organisations – even if they’re not currently advertising for graduates. 

Critically, you should not expect a graduate role to simply fall into your lap. No matter how talented you are, employers also want to know that you are passionate, driven, and independent. Show your initiative by actively pursuing internships and placements.

Your ideal role may not exist at the time you go looking for it. However, this does not mean you can’t create it. By taking control of your search, and being open to a range of options, you give yourself a far greater chance of getting your foot in the door. 

Then you can begin to accrue industry experience, build trust with your employer, and crucially begin to carve out a niche within the organisation. Over time, this may enable you to develop your role into one that is more in line with your ambitions, or use it as a stepping stone to the next stage of your career. 

The confidence, professionalism and sense of achievement you feel after completing a placement is incredible. It gave me an insight into opportunities and inspired me to reach my highest potential.
Eleanor Jayne Elizabeth, OPUS placement student.

The fundamental thing to remember is to tailor your communications to each individual company, showing you’ve done your homework, have a clear understanding of their business, and are serious about making a good impression. 

Foster Connections 

Not every application can be a success. However, every attempt is a learning experience, and a chance to add to your professional network on LinkedIn. 

For example, if you’re turned down due to a lack of available opportunities, or your role is only temporary, encourage these connections to get in touch if something suitable comes up in the future. Similarly, you might ask them to recommend you should they hear of someone else looking for a graduate with your skillset. 

Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot

Remember, this is just the first stage of your career, so don’t lose hope if the perfect role doesn’t immediately materialise. In the meantime, everything you do will increase your experience, enabling you to develop new skills and expand your portfolio.   A varied background demonstrates your versatility, and willingness to adapt. Plus, you may even discover a new calling along the way. 


Why not check out the international graduate scheme offered by Opus Talent Solutions? The two-year intensive training program provides opportunities in London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney. 

So, you’re studying towards a career in construction…

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UWE Student, David Slade, talks about his placement experience at Midas Group

Whether you’ve found it to be a weighty decision or you’ve always known that it’s for you, there’s no better way to refine and gain confidence in your short term career plan than securing a promising work placement with a reputable company. 

David talks about the experience he’s gained so far at the Midas Group, one the UK’s largest independent construction and property services companies. 

Midas staff and students sitting around a table doing a training exercise.
Midas training session, photo by Neil Phillips

“My time at Midas has been a great experience where I feel I have learnt a vast amount. I’ve found it really beneficial to have worked at different stages within a project that I may not have had exposure to elsewhere. I’ve also been lucky enough to work for different companies within the group, including Midas Construction and Mi-space.”

“I recently visited the site of a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Bristol and I got to see the scale of a large project with more than 200 people on site. I am currently working for Mi-space, where I have been able to gain insight into the residential and property services side of the business. This included a recent visit to our award-winning Primrose Park project in Plymouth, where I learnt a great deal and got a glimpse into the future of housing schemes in terms of sustainability.”

“I look forward to learning more in my role at Midas.” 

Joe Exley, University of Plymouth student, is also completing a work placement year with Midas: “For me, this first-hand experience has been invaluable. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to continuing my placement and applying what I’ve learned so far in the workplace and in my final year of uni.”

Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips
Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips

“I’ve visited five sites and completed a lot of practical training so far, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues in health and safety, operations and HR.  I’ve gained good insight into how Midas operates as a company.”

Many students who complete a placement year with Midas have gone on to be offered a graduate trainee position upon completion of their degree, providing the confidence to return to university with the security of a job offer with a company they work well with. 

Midas is always looking for graduates to join its growing business in fields such as Quantity Surveying, Site Management, Estimating, Planning and Design Management.  Look out for work placement opportunities on the Midas website.


If you are inspired by David’s experience come find out about your placement options .

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