Sandwich Year: Do I Take A Bite?

Sandwich/placement years are great, but choosing to take that year out can be a tricky choice to make.

I interviewed Chad Astbury, a Chemistry student here at The University of Wolverhampton - who is currently doing a sandwich placement at Solvay Solutions Ltd.

“Sandwich years are a great way of having a practice run of your future career. It’s a test of your abilities, and shows whether or not you are suited to the demands of industry. It also puts you ahead of the bunch once you graduate.

Looking for a placement during 2nd year wasn’t easy, as University is already a challenge of balancing revision, coursework, a social life, and in my case - living away from home. So, I set aside a chunk of time each week - not long, maybe 30 minutes or so - to find and apply for placements.

Something I have learned on placement is that the “real world” is very different to university: I expected a lot of pressure and close supervision, when in reality, I am left to do my work independently, and just check-in occasionally with what I’m working on, and what steps I plan to take next. Another important thing that I’ve realised is that you are there to learn; it’s ok to make mistakes, and you can never ask too many questions - everyone was a “newbie” at one point.

The best advice I can give about Sandwich placements is:

  1. Look early on. Getting in there early means that you aren’t spending too much time worrying about it during exam/hand-in periods.
  2. Apply for as many jobs as possible. Don’t just apply for one, as there could be lots of people going for one position. Keep your mind open.
  3. If you don’t get the first job you apply for, that’s ok! You should feel proud that you’re working so hard towards your future. Chin up, and keep applying!”

According to The Guardian, “Research suggests that sandwich degrees, which are designed by both employers and universities, make students more employable. A study by Aston Business School concludes that placement years boost students' personal development and their team work skills, while government research shows the average salary of students who have completed sandwich placements is 8% higher than those that didn't six months after graduating. There's also evidence to suggest that placement years boost students' academic performance. Despite this, the number of students taking sandwich degrees has fallen from 9.5% of full-time students in 2002-03, to 7.2% in 2009-10.”

If you’re still unsure about whether or not to do a sandwich placement, you can always get more information from The Workplace in the Ambika Paul building.

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