This thesis reports a study of the impact of work placements on the transferable skills of engineering students.
The thesis provides a review of the theoretical and empirical literature in the field of student work placements and transferable skills and provides a discussion of the measurement of impact in this field. It also describes the design of the study, methods of data collection and the data analyses used.
The research project was carried out at Loughborough University from 2005 – 2008. The data was collected from 247 students and 5 DIS (Diploma in Industrial Studies) tutors from three engineering departments (Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering and the Institute of Polymer Technology and Materials Engineering (IPTME)) and 26 line managers from 19 different companies which take students on placements.
The results shows that the overwhelming majority of the students valued work placements as a way of developing transferable skills and identified the transferable skills which work placements were most likely and least likely to develop. There was close agreement on these matters between students who had experienced placements and those that had not. All DIS tutors and 87% of the line managers interviewed considered that a work placement had a very strong or strong impact upon the transferable skills of the students. Triangulation of the responses by students, tutors and line managers revealed close agreement on these matters.
Students, tutors and line managers had mixed opinions whether work placements would improve degree results. In fact, work placement students performed significantly better in degree examinations than non work placement students. The tutors and line managers stressed particularly that work placements increased the confidence and maturity of the students. They suggested holiday work, summer work, team based projects as a part of the University degree courses as alternative ways of helping the students who are not doing work placements to acquire and improve their transferable skills, although they did not think that these suggested alternatives will be as effective as the one year placement. They considered that the duration of the work experience period is a key factor in improving transferable skills.
A doctoral thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of doctor of philosophy of Loughborough University.