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.