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Mark Naylor’s Blog

Mark Naylor’s Blog

I want to know how the Earth works…

Midterm Reflection on the MEarthPhys in Geophysics with Professional Placement

Met Office - WikipediaOne of my teaching roles over the last 4 years has been setting up a Geophysics with Professional Placement degree route where students take a placement sandwiched between their 3rd and 4th years. The lag time between starting this initiative and seeing the results has been long, just because of how long it takes for students to reach the placement year, but we are now starting to see the results.

Whilst such placements are common practice in engineering and chemistry – this is something new for geoscience. This means a we need to change current practice so that employers see the benefits of placements that run longer than a typical internship. These benefits are realised in other disciplines – we now need to do the same in geoscience.

The benefits for a host are that the student can be in place for long enough that their initial training results in the delivery of meaningful work over the remainder of the year. Placement students can contribute on a fundamentally deeper level.

For the students, they undertake a year long placement in industry, have the opportunity to develop and reflect on skills for being effective in the work place and grow in confidence through this, develop a network of contacts to support finding employment after their degrees and get paid a salary for doing this.

I am writing this post now because we have just had a presentation from the first student on placement with the Met Office to the next year’s cohort who are currently looking for placements. The MetOffice have a long running scheme to host year long Industrial Placements.

It was exciting to hear about how the workplace skills developed by one of the students is leading to greater confidence and that the route is enabling the student to develop skills that are normally outwith what we provide at university. I have seen similar growth of individuals within our 4th year Geoscience Outreach course – and think we should reflect on such opportunities for growth can become the norm rather than the exception.

E-PROFILE - EumetnetThe student in question is working as part of the EUMetNet Observations Team developing Cloud based automated performance and reporting system for various ground based observation networks distributed across Europe.

Just to take a few paraphrased quotes that make me feel we are on the right track with this scheme:

“It was a big change from university with the opportunity to work with career meteorologists, IT specialists and … with experience ranging from 5 to 40 years in the industry. I could talk with people and see how the industry has changed over the years”

“I work with a multinational team… get to interact with so many people… and see how my work benefits people all over Europe.”

“I work fairly independently within a team where I am doing very separate work that no one else is doing to the benefit of the team”

“Speaking in front of groups has always been challenging. I have been giving technical updates on a daily basis in a semi formal environment so that I am now able to give technical information without bottling it. It benefits me by improving communication skills and confidence.”

‘Whilst the field I am doing the placement on is not necessarily what I will work on in my future the skills will benefit me regardless of the met or geophysics area I go on to work in.”

“It is an opportunity that would be hard to pass up on. I now have contacts for finding jobs after my degree.”

“The process of finding the placement was hard work but worth it. Any interview experience is good experience as is the whole application process. Take the chance and see what happens.”

“The careers service were a lot of help, they held some workshops for online interviews and how to tackle the questions there. They also had information about Met Office specific interviews. Dont underestimate the amount of time it takes to go through the application process.”

“In the interview I spoke about my third year project so I could talk about the coding I did, my personal contribution and discuss technical detail.”

“I was worried at the beginning that they would expect me to be a coding expert. But that is not the case. The team are benefiting from me as much as I am from them. They brought me on knowing that I did not have as much experience of coding but knew I brought meteorology experience and could offer something different. I became more confident at asking questions and that it is ok not to know everything.”

We now have a model that works and I am excited to see how we can grow the scheme in the coming years.

To find out more about our Geophysics Degrees with Professional Placement have a look at our prospectus:


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