Summer internships are invaluable for graduate engineers, but whats the best way to secure one?

How to Find a Summer Engineering Internship

The internship application process can be a long, drawn-out process and can be a big change from your usual studies, so we’ve listed below a few tips to make sure you secure an internship this Summer.

Make your list

The first step on your path to getting an internship is making a list of all the companies you’d like to work for. If you’ve already done a little bit of research about your preferred sector, just start listing the companies you want to apply for with links to their application pages or the name and contact information of the person you’ll need to speak to.

If you don’t know which companies you want to work for but have a definite idea of the sector you’d like to work in, just make a list of the top companies in that sector and related sectors and research each company thoroughly – you don’t want to end up in a workplace you won’t enjoy.

Consider Smaller Businesses

Blue-chip organisations often recruit for their internship programmes many months in advance, leaving a lot of students at a loss of where to apply when they decide to start applying and realising it’s too late. Students often ignore SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) in favour of more well-known companies, but SMEs can be a great place to gain experience in engineering and offer a wider range of experience than larger organisations due to their increased openness and accessibility.

If you start an internship at an SME you are much more likely to develop a strong working relationship with the senior management team – something that just isn’t likely in a large enterprise. You may also get the opportunity to work closely with other sectors of the business and develop an understanding of how the business works as a whole, increasing your future employability.

Work out what your prospective employers want

Just as with jobs, you can’t use the same application for multiple companies. Each application you do must be well researched and must cover the essential traits and experience your prospective employer is looking for.

Of course, grades are important and will play a large part in your success in finding an internship but companies are increasingly looking further afield to find the best candidates. Many companies look for evidence of extracurricular leadership activities or charity work while many primarily look for the right attitude and culture, but all companies will consider relevant work experience in related fields, so if you have done a summer internship previously, use it and apply to similar companies. Every company will have a unique culture and way of working so it’s a good idea to use social media to get a feel for a prospective company’s culture and whether you would be a good fit.

Get to know your chosen companies inside-out

To be successful in your applications you must show a good understanding of the company, its products and its culture. This is a good way to show your research skills by using the internet and social media to find out everything about your chosen companies. It’s a good idea to set up Google News alerts for all of the companies you are applying to so that you can keep up to date with all of the news concerning them. Topical, relevant news is a great topic to bring up in an interview and will make you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

When applying to larger firms it’s important to consider every aspect of their business. Blue-chip engineering companies rarely specialise in only one type of engineering, and interviewers may be fishing for references to lesser-known aspects of the business. For example, alongside jet engines Rolls-Royce also has major businesses in marine propulsion and energy and interviewers may press you to talk about these lesser-known sectors.

Ask your lecturers

Lecturers have a wealth of experience and contacts in industry and should be your first port of call for anything related to your career. Many have had careers at large PLCs and will have contacts within the companies you’re aiming to work for. They also teach hundreds of engineers every year, many of whom will go on to work in desirable companies and will keep in touch with their lecturers. These contacts are invaluable, both in your search for internships and eventually your search for permanent work, so use them.

Get in touch directly

If you don’t see any internships listed on a company’s website, that doesn’t mean they won’t consider taking you on if you get in touch. Showing initiative by finding the HR Manager and contacting them directly, if possible, can work wonders when it comes to securing internships and summer placements. Once you get their contact information, simply send them an email explaining your situation and why you want to work at their company, along with your CV. If you don’t receive a reply in a couple of days, call them up and speak to them directly.

Whilst summer internships are tricky to secure, they provide a wealth of hands-on experience of the nuts-and-bolts of what engineering actually involves day to day, and many companies offer schemes to allow students to experience multiple facets of engineering, from the shop floor to the design desk to give you a well-rounded understanding of what each field involves. Summer internships are hugely useful for budding engineers and following the advice above should enable you to secure the right internship for you.

Jackson Hogg is a specialist recruitment company working within the engineering, manufacturing and technology sectors across the UK and further afield. We practice a discipline-led approach to recruitment, enabling a more flexible workforce and allowing engineers to move from sectors with an abundance of engineers to sectors where they are needed most.

If you are a recent grad looking for your first engineering role or an engineer looking to move to a new company, get in touch with Tom Farr at