Andrew Horn

The key feature is immersion for a year in a commercial working environment. This requires the student to perform as a full-time employee of their placement company and gives them the opportunity to experience the nature of chemistry in a cutting edge, time-is-money, heavily-regulated business environment.

 

What structure does your course have?

On their year in industry (the third of the course), students are usually involved in both a research project and the general business of the company. This means participation in a real work environment and exposure to all of the experiences of a full-time employee.

Areas in which students are typically placed include synthetic chemistry, product formulation and chemical analysis – some projects actually include all of these. In previous years, students have worked in areas as diverse as drug discovery, ceramics, polymers, petrochemicals, lubricants and medicinal chemistry.

At the end of the placement year, students write a report based upon some part of their project. This forms part of an assessment process which also includes a presentation, distance learning and a placement supervisor’s report.

The distance learning work is supported by an academic tutor in Manchester and the project progress is supported by a visiting academic tutor from the School of Chemistry who makes two visits to the placement site.

What are the key features of your course?

The key feature is immersion for a year in a commercial working environment. This requires the student to perform as a full-time employee of their placement company and gives them the opportunity to experience the nature of chemistry in a cutting edge, time-is-money, heavily-regulated business environment.

What kind of employment can graduates go into following this degree?

Pretty much anything requiring literacy and numeracy, ranging from the chemical industry to business and finance.

Why do graduates from your course stand out in the job market?

Statistics show that many companies preferentially recruit students who have had a placement year as part of their degree. They do this for several reasons.

Firstly, students with placement experience have already been exposed to many of the practicalities of the workplace, ranging from procedural issues such as health and safety to working-life aspects such as personal time management.

Secondly, those having work in a business environment will have been required to liaise with a wide range of people, often including customers, plant workers, synthetic chemists, analysts and senior management. Graduates with placement experience therefore often have developed and improved their interpersonal skills to a high level.

Thirdly, placement students know about commercial pressure; delivery targets (time-based and financial), regulation and recording all form part of daily life in a successful business and anyone with placement experience will have been thoroughly inculcated with these values. In general, placement students are generally seen by potential employers as positive, organised and professional.

What kind of industry relations do you have?

Many of our staff have professional working relationships with our placement providers. We continually cultivate and develop links with companies across a range of sectors to identify possibilities for new placements. We also actively promote the MChem Chemistry with Industrial Experience course to suppliers and service providers/users.

What distinguishes this course from similar ones in other institutions?

The process of seeking a placement is very well-supported here in Manchester. Chemistry staff and the Careers Service pro-actively engage with students seeking placement to provide advice on which placement to apply for, the writing of CVs and letters of application, filling in application forms and interview technique.

We constantly update the applying cohort with new opportunities through email and social networking tools.

Once a placement has been secured, a visiting academic tutor from the School of Chemistry staff is appointed to oversee the placement and to provide advice and guidance. Each year, surveys of the returning cohort are made and the results used to refine and improve our support provision.

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