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Year In Industry - Lizzie - It confirmed my career path

Lizzie Garside worked her gap year with the Year in Industry programme run by charity EDT and won the Environmental Award at EDT’s Annual Future Industry Leaders Award Event. Now going on to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2017, she reflects on the benefits of taking a working gap year in industry.

Lizzie receiving her award from Sarah Murray OBE at the Future Industry Leaders Award

1. Why did you go for a working gap year?

My gap year gave me the opportunity to fully consider what I really wanted to do. Also, it gave me a chance to do something a bit different and is something that will really help me in the future.

2. Could you tell us in detail about the project you worked on - what were you asked to do, what challenges did you face, how did you overcome them etc?

My project was to be a key member of a small team implementing a high value, short notice project involving the design and installation of a research and development facility including bespoke test equipment which will be used for a £4 million project to commercialise an energy saving refrigeration system previously developed by ECH Engineering.

Our main project site was nearly 300 miles away so I had to be sure to double check everything was loaded for each journey; with a 12 hour round trip we couldn’t just go back and collect things. Managing client expectations and contractors also demonstrated the need to be able to deal with many different people with varying needs all at once; clear communication was essential.

3. What new skills did this teach you?

The project was of critical importance to the company, providing a basis for future development and growth. My placement has given me the opportunity to develop and practice skills which will be valuable in my career. I have enjoyed working on real projects with real business pressures where team work and planning were critical.

I have learnt a lot in my year, from business planning to project management, as well as workshop skills to organisation.

4. What were your highlights from your gap year?

Highlights have definitely been from being able to bring in a new project and take control from start to finish. As well as this, winning a national award at EDT’s Future Industry Leaders Awards has been incredible.

5. What was unexpected for you about your year?

In my year, I have had the opportunity to work on so much more than what was predicted at the start of my year. It has been a year that has been full of surprises with each one coming with a new skill.

6. Aside from technical skills what do you think you gained from you gap year?

Coming straight from school into this ‘full-on’ intense project has certainly been a baptism of fire but I have found myself adept at taking on new knowledge and managing my time to achieve what I would have thought impossible at the beginning of the year. I have been entrusted with the design and implement of key components of this project and to see the whole facility coming together in a way that has delighted the client has been enormously satisfying.

I have learnt a lot about how the industry works. As the refrigeration industry isn’t well recognised, all awareness of this has given me a great understanding of how to work in this industry and hopefully others in the future.

7. What have you learned which you will take forward into your degree?

I hope that I take forwards all my technical skills as well as practical skills. I also hope that there will be other things that I have learnt over the year that I will realise later in my degree.

8. Has the gap year given you any firm ideas about your future career direction?

My year out has given me the time to confirm the career path I have chosen as well as where I want to go for my degree.

9. What would you recommend that others should look for in a work placement either before or during a university degree?

I would recommend it. I have found it an amazing time to get some independence without too much pressure. I moved further away from home than I would have initially liked, but feel I have benefited from being completely independent.

10. Were you school and parents supportive or encouraging of your working gap year or did you get any advice to go to straight university?

My parents were very supportive of me taking a gap year. It definitely gave me time to consider all my options of my next step and the freedom and confidence for when I get there.