Matthew Sproxton

Matthew Sproxton
Matthew Sproxton attended The University of Northampton (then University College Northampton) from 1999 to 2002 and completed several work placements during his degree through the Northants Engineering Training Partnership (NETP).
I came to University College Northampton straight from school after doing A levels. I applied to do the Engineering degree and was accepted into the NETP. I had little work experience, just some summer and weekend work in a packing warehouse. I had no idea what it would be like to work in a design office for example. So I was pretty nervous about going into my first placement, as I really had no idea what to expect!
My placement experiences: 
My first placement was at Cummins Engine Company in October 2000. The thing about your first placement is that your expectations of what is to come (for the rest of the year) can be strongly influenced by your first few days. This can be daunting, especially if you turn up on your first day and do not like the place - (although I am sure this will not happen!). It is important to remember that a three month placement will pass quite quickly so you need to get settled in as fast as possible or you will be leaving before you have been able to appreciate the full experience. However, you may find that it takes several weeks to find your feet, especially if you have never had a job before! Importantly, do not just give up in the first week!
At Cummins I undertook technical projects to support the development test department including designing and ordering safety equipment and preparing suggestions for improving testing facilities. As I gained experience of the differing companies I realised how big an effect a company's culture can have on you. This enables you to find out what sort of company you are suited to. Working at Cummins was interesting but the type of work was not really what I had expected. This experience gave me more confidence to go into the next placement, Cosworth Racing (Business Information Systems).
My first impression was that the department was very easy going. Personally, this was a very useful placement as I learnt a lot about computers, software etc - knowledge which has proved itself valuable many times since. The attitude within the department made this placement very entertaining, as there was a lot of good humour and banter between all the staff.
After Cosworth I went to Orange Instruments who unfortunately are no longer part of the partnership. I found it very easy to settle in there due to the small size of the company, you got to know everyone on your first day. During your placements it is likely that mistakes will happen. At Orange I spent some time manufacturing printed circuit boards (PCBs) and other devices. On one occasion I incorrectly wired a whole batch of components. The most important lesson I learnt after staying late to rewire them all was 'Do not be afraid to ask for help'!
I finished my placement year at KAB Seating. This placement provided the opportunity to gain a lot of experience in production and manufacturing areas, which I had not been in contact with previously. The projects I undertook at KAB during this time gave me a good understanding of current manufacturing practices and quality systems. For me, working at KAB proved to be the most rewarding placement as I felt that by working unaccompanied on real projects within the factory I had learnt more than before.
How did the NETP help me?: 
One of the main things that I noticed was that your CV looks a lot better after the placement year! By making sure your CV contains up-to-date details of all your placements and a brief description of the type of work you did there, you greatly increase your chance of being short listed for a job. Interviewers have actually told me that I was selected for interview because of my placements. Also, as I mentioned before you will have a better idea (if you do not already know) of what sort of company you want to work for. This will help you when job hunting and means you will not be wasting your time with jobs or companies that you ultimately decide are unsuitable. During your interviews you will be able to talk about your placements. This is really useful as it shows your interviewer that you have a level of experience that may be higher than other graduates with the same qualifications.
You may also find that one of your placement companies is recruiting in the future and if so you will have a great advantage over any other applicants as you know the company already and can tailor your application more effectively and the company may be more inclined to take you back as you have already proved your worth! You may even be lucky enough to be offered a job through one of your placements.
Your experiences from the partnership placements will also stand you in good stead for when you actually start your first job. You will have a better idea of what to expect and have a good foundation to compare the job against. One of the biggest criticisms I hear about graduates from people in industry is that they have a lesser understanding of how to get on in a real work environment. Through the NETP placements you will learn many skills, from something as simple as knowing how to use a banding machine, that will help you overcome this prejudice.
Since graduating: 
My first job after graduating in 2002 was as a Design Draughtsman for Sealine International. Sealine design and manufacture a range of motor yachts and leisure cruisers. I strongly believe that the two most significant reasons for me getting this job were my Computer Aided Design (CAD) experience from University College Northampton and the industrial experience from my placement year. At Sealine my job involved production support for specification and build changes, production drawings and work instructions for new products, new product development, component design using inventor and compiling owners' manuals and approval documentation.
After leaving Sealine I rejoined KAB Seating as a Design Engineer working in new product introduction. I stayed at KAB for five years, progressing from new product introduction through applications engineering to advanced engineering. KAB Seating design and manufacture a range of suspension seats for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as JCB, Komatsu, Volvo and Caterpillar as well as many other smaller customers. KAB also supplies into the construction, agriculture, forestry, truck, bus and office seating markets as well as many other specialist vehicles such as electric vans and road sweepers. Most of my work involved designing and developing new products and making design improvements to existing products in order to improve reliability or reduce the cost.
I am currently working as a Project Engineer at Krohne Ltd in Wellingborough. My main responsibilities are designing and procuring tooling, undertaking improvement projects and co-ordinating maintenance activities. The work is very varied and requires a broad knowledge of many engineering principles.
Advice on job hunting: 
The University College Northampton degree course provided me with a wide insight into many different subjects which have been very beneficial to me in industry.
My tips for job hunting:: 
  • Start looking as soon as possible - most applications for the bigger organisations have to be in by early spring so do not wait until you graduate to start looking (like I did)
  • Make use of recruitment shows etc - these are excellent places to get lots of free information
  • Seek help, one of the most useful things I did was to attend a workshop at Kettering Business Venture Trust. They operate a scheme called Get on with Graduates and offer free advice for job hunting, CV writing, interview techniques etc.  This was a great help, look out for something similar in your area or within the University.
You should view your placements as an opportunity for learning. Do not feel bogged down by the fact that you have to go to work! If you find that there is something that you are particularly interested in doing or seeing I am sure that someone will help you in setting it up. Ultimately, you have the responsibility for making your placements interesting. In other words, if you make the effort, you will get the rewards now and later.