Newest Review: ... the Year in Industry scheme and interview tips followed by a brief, informal interview. Also, all of the applicants had to bring their pa... more
Gap yah anyone?
Gap year experiences
Member Name: klakierek
Gap year experiences
Advantages: earning money, gaining experience
Disadvantages: absolutely none for me
Although I have been working hard for my entire life and I planned to go straight to a good university, life got in the way. My parents had no means to finance my higher education (I was receiving a full scholarship throughout the two years of my A-levels) and I qualified for tuition fees loan only as I am an EU student and I had not been living in the UK for three years prior to entering higher education. I was worried that a full-time job during whilst studying full-time at university could affect my studies so I decided to take a year off and earn as much money as I possibly could and save it for education. As I was hoping to study sciences, my Sixth Form tutor recommended a charity called Year in Industry (which is a part of Engineering Development Trust (EDT)) that helps to find gap and sandwich year work placements in engineering, science, IT, logistics, e-commerce, marketing, finance and more. I immediately went on their website (www.yini.org.uk) where I easily found further information. As I learnt, an average YinI student is paid between 9-14k per year so for me it was the perfect solution - earning 'real' money and gaining relevant work experience! There is also a 'Combo' option during which you work for the first part of your year and then go travelling (companies such as ProjectsAbroad offer discounts for YinI) for a couple of months although I personally do not know anyone who has done it.
I applied very early - just right at the beginning of the second year of my A-levels. The application charge is $25 and this is all I paid for the scheme. I had to complete quite a big questionnaire online and YinI created a CV for me based on that (I was allowed to make amendments throughout the year). Within a couple of weeks, I was invited for an assessment event in London during which I listened to the presentations about the Year in Industry scheme and interview tips followed by a brief, informal interview. Also, all of the applicants had to bring their passports to confirm the right to work in the UK.
Year in Industry has regional offices all over the UK so if you live in Inverness, you don't need to come down to London for the event (which is compulsory) but you will be probably assessed somewhere closer to your home. I know that 'assessment' may sound a bit scary but in fact, it is very relaxed and informal event that gives you a chance to meet other applicants and YinI staff.
From what I know, a lot of Sixth Formers worry that their grades are not high enough to get a good job but they are not necessarily right - many companies look for something beyond the grades, such as involvement in extracurricular activities and potential. Even if you are not predicted three As at A-level, then you still have a very good chance of finding employment.
Following the assessment event, I was formally accepted by Year in Industry and this is when the job hunting started. I was regularly sent job adverts and I kept on searching for vacancies on the YinI website as well. One of the problems I encountered whilst searching the website is that it wasn't always kept up to date. I happened to ask my regional YinI office to send my CV to some companies and within a couple of days, it turned out that some of the vacancies were already filled which was a bit frustrating. Initially, I was extremely picky and I didn't want my CV to be sent to companies that offered IT or engineering work placements - I was determined to work in a laboratory and become a 'real' scientist. After a couple of months I realised that looking for a job in the tough time of financial crisis was not going to be easy and I decided to revise my criteria. I didn't really have any contingency plans (I decided to apply to university during my gap year) so I knew this was my only option therefore I started sending my CV off to all the companies that could offer any relevant work experience and I soon started receiving invitations for interviews.
In the end, I attended two interviews. I was not entirely sure how to approach the first one as half a year passed since my assessment event so I treated is a bit like a 'practice' interview. I was asked me some 'standard' interview questions about my CV which I thought went quite well though I got a bit caught out with health and safety - I never thought I would be asked about it! I still really enjoyed my time there (and I received a free lunch!) and I was glad to have gained this experience. I felt a lot more confident when I was asked to prepare a presentation about a project I successfully managed for my second interview with one of the governmental bodies in Wiltshire. I also asked my friends and teachers to give me mock interviews so during the interview, I knew I was doing well as I was really well-prepared. And the next day I received a phone call from YinI telling me that I got the job! Of course, I joyfully accepted.
After that, I started receiving a lot of forms to complete from the company, Year in Industry information packs and a lot of other information about what was going to happen. Most of the students start their placement in September (which was the case with mine), though some start in July and last from 10 to 12 months (my contract was for 12 months). I also got invited for a Year in Industry information day before I start my placement but unfortunately, I could not attend as I was on away. Meanwhile, I found out that during my gap year, I can also gain a Diploma in First Line Management Level 3 (accredited by the Chartered Management Institute) free of charge. I know that a lot of students worry they will lose their Maths skills - here you have a chance to either complete an A-level in Further Maths or complete a distance-learning Best Maths course (covering the syllabus of the first-year university Engineering Mathematics) which costs $125. I decided to complete both courses as I wanted to learn something about management and I already had a Further Maths A-level and I didn't want to forget the calculus or complex numbers.
From mid-August I was just trying to pass the time as I couldn't wait to start my first full-time job and adult life. Meanwhile, I had to deal with domestics such as house hunting. As my company had recruited Year in Industry students before, we (there are four of us) simply moved into the same house as they moved out which saved a lot of hassle. We got on really well and quickly made very good friends. Throughout the year, we had a couple of chances to get to know other Year in Industry students working in South West.
I spent my first few weeks at work trying to find my way around the building, getting to know other team members, attending induction meetings (to learn about the company) and learning about the activities I will be doing throughout the year. From the very beginning, I was involved in many serious tasks such as project and event management, data analysis or report writing for the board of directors. I even learnt how to write cost benefit analysis and business cases; there wasn't a single time when I had to make a coffee for anyone. My manager is a lovely lady in her thirties who genuinely wants me to make the most out of this placement and has been very supportive throughout the year. Apart from a line-manager, I was also assigned a YinI mentor who visited me twice during the year to make sure I was happy with the company and oppositely, that I didn't cause them any trouble. We are also encouraged to take part in annual Year in Industry competition called Contribution to Business Awards - I just submitted my entry!
Unfortunately, now my year is coming to an end. I see how much I learnt in terms of transferable skills such as communication or time-management but I have also grown as a person. I am now much more confident and mature; not to mention making really good friends. I hope that the experience from this year will make my university life slightly easier - for example, I had to learn to cook (though firstly I learnt how to switch the fire alarm off!) and now I know how to deal with my electricity bills.
I think that Year in Industry is a great scheme that provided me with a very valuable gap year experience which helped me to grow as a person and make my CV stand out. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Summary: A great way to spend a productive gap year