The value of work placements

George Brown, Yussuf Ahmed


This paper reports a study of the impact of work placements on transferable skills. The study was conducted in three engineering departments at Loughborough University. A pre-test intervention post-test model with a control group was used to sample the views of students before and after placements and of students who did not go on placements. These were triangulated with the views of their line managers in industry and their industrial tutors.

The findings indicated that there was strong agreement between students, tutors and line managers on the value of work placements for transferable skills; that students developed their transferable skills on work placements and which transferable skills were developed most effectively on work placements. The consensus of line managers and the DIS (Diploma in Industrial Studies) tutors is that there is no satisfactory alternative to work placements for developing transferable skills. There were mixed views on whether work placements enhanced degree results. In fact, students who did go on placements did obtain better degree grades.

These results demonstrate the value of work placements for the personal and professional development of students. But some caution is necessary in generalising the results to other courses. Work placements differ in structure, content and duration, the evidence on the transferability of transferable skills is not clear cut and impact in this field is more a matter of judgment than measurement.


Work placement; work-based learning; transferable skills; skills

Full Text:



Baird, D. (2005), Work Getting the Most from Work Experience, New Law Journal, 155,(7167), 360-361

Bennett, N. Dunne, E. and Carré, B. (2000), Skills Development in Higher Education and Employment, The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press

Brennan, J. and Little, B., A. (1996), Review of Work Based Learning in Higher Education, (DfEE: London)

Bourner, T. and Hamed, M. (1987), "Entry qualifications and degree performance: summary report", CNAA Development Services Publication

Dench, S. (1997), "Changing skill needs: what makes people employable?", Industrial and Commercial Training, 29, (6), 190-193

DfES, (2005), 'What are key skills?'.

(accessed 6th/April/2009)

Hall, L., Harris, J., Bakewell, C., and Graham, P. (2000), "Supporting placement-based learning using networked technologies", The International Journal of Educational Management, 14, (4), 175-179

Kerawala, M. and Sillis, J. (1998), "Profiting from Work Placement", Biomedical Scientist, 42, (5), 309

Kelly, M., Griffith, J., Dorsman, M. (1986), "Approaches to employment: an investigation of graduate destinations, summary findings report", Development Services/Manchester Polytechnic/CNAA, London

Kolb, D. (1984), Experiential Learning, Journal Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Mayo, R.H. and Jones, L.L. (1985), "The Effect of a Sandwich Year on Degree Classification", Proceedings of the fourth world conference on co-operative education", pp. 428-431, Napier College, Edinburgh

Mendez, R. (2008), "The Correlation between Industrial Placements and Final Degree Results: A Study of Engineering Placement students", ASET Annual Conference 2008, Plymouth

Pickles, T. A., (1999), "Relating Curriculum Content to Industrial Placement Experience", WACE Conference Proceedings, Washington DC

Ryan, G., Toohey, S. and Hughes, C. (1996), "The purpose, value and structure of the practicum in higher education: a literature review". Higher Education, 31, (3), 355-377.