Gennie Dearman is chief operating officer for the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), the organisation that runs the Year in Industry programme for interns looking to get a feel for engineering.
The Year in Industry has a good claim to be the original internship programme. Founded 30 years ago, it has been much imitated – to the extent that many university courses for engineers and scientists describe the time with a company that their students take mid-degree as ‘a year in industry’.
The concept remains very simple: potential interns, both gap year students and undergraduates, are interviewed by companies of all sizes in a variety of sectors and those who are successful at interview enjoy a year on a sensible salary, working on projects set by the company that takes them on. They remain supported by my organisation EDT, the charity that runs the Year in Industry (YINI) programme, but for the most part, the success or failure of the internship is down to the relationship between the student and the company.
The keys to success for any internship can be found from talking to those involved, as evidenced in the case of Andrew Robinson who has just finished his “Year in Industry” with Precision Varionic International Ltd, a consultancy that designs and manufactures automotive position sensors for some of the world’s most iconic cars, where he reported to Dr Pufinji Obene, Operations Director at PVI, and the leader of its R&D team. Andrew will be starting a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Swansea in September.
What was the main project?
Andrew’s main project was the further development of the novel Electro-Static Jet (ESJET) method for printed electronics, which is superior to current inkjet or screen printers. ESJET overcomes the current limitations of resolution, viscosity and metal loading when compared to state of the art printing methodologies. In particular, Andrew designed a new printhead system and utilised a marginal gains approach to the challenge of reducing the minimum printed line width and ensuring repeatable prints.
What was the company’s perception of the project?
“Andrew’s fearless contribution to this project is way beyond my wildest expectations for a pre-university intern,” said Dr Obene. “Because of his application we are now on track to complete the project on time and, in fact, are being entered for the prestigious Euronanoforum 2018 competition as one of the 10 most impactful and influential scientific projects being funded by the EU.
“Andrew not only applied himself to the work extremely successfully but also gave presentations for both Innovate UK and EU projects as well as writing the minutes of these 3-monthly meetings. Andrew has shown his exceptional ability to work in a team of his peers both internally within PVI and externally as a representative of PVI.
“Andrew designed, manufactured and evaluated the first pilot line and print head nozzle system leading to printed nano-materials down to a 10µm resolution. The initiative to redesign the original ESJET printing rig both increased safety of use and provided more consistent prints.
“As ESJET printing technology is entirely novel in concept, Andrew’s work has given PVI a head-start in the commercialisation of the technology. As well as enabling much more consistent printing and a reduced line width, the new glass capillary print head system that he developed has reduced the purchasing cost by 99 per cent.”
What was the intern’s perspective?
“Learning the value of approximating scientific principles to the first order and applying them to engineering problems has enabled me to make technological advancements with ESJET and to conduct research experiments,” Andrew explained. “Learning this and applying this same approach to my degree will enable me to get the maximum out of university.
I have also learnt transferable engineering skills during my YINI such as:
- software packages of MatLab and Solidworks
- designing, manufacturing and evaluating systems effectively
- improving my interpersonal skills through presentations in Graz, Austria, London, Reading and Swansea and dissemination of the ESJET project at the Innovate UK Rushlight Show in London.
By completing the YINI, I will be going to university with the ability to see how the learning I will undertake is applied in industry.”
This is the second year that PVI has employed YINI interns and our first year’s experience was equally positive. PVI uses YINI students because, if challenged, they are fearless. They understand being fortunate enough to be selected and then applying themselves can give them a head start at university and better job opportunities after. The extra maturity they gain in working with shop floor operators to directors of companies gives them a real taste on industry. This is strategically important for UK PLC and contributes to sculpting the next leaders in industry.
There are, however, some basic rules that companies must follow:
- Only take on YINI interns if you are willing to mentor them properly.
- Have pre-defined projects which can benefit your company as well as the intern.
- Give them a good reading list so they understand what they need to do.
- Give them flexibility in buying things, trying things that may not always work but sometimes will.
- Be committed and take the risk, as it is worth it
For more information about The Year in Industry visit