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Kalpa from Sri Lanka, Aerospace engineer

©Kalpa Nadeeshan PereraKalpa Nadeeshan Perera
From: Sri Lanka
Studied: MEng Aeronautical Engineering with a Diploma in Industrial Studies at Loughborough University
Now: Graduate design engineer at Zodiac Seats UK

Can you work in the UK after your studies? That's exactly what Kalpa is doing.

Originally from Colombo in Sri Lanka, where he attended Ananda College and the Asian International School, Kalpa is now working full time at the UK headquarters of Zodiac Seats, the world's leading supplier of business and first class seats to major international airlines, based in Cwmbran, South Wales. 

Kalpa explains how his UK education made this possible.

How did you apply for the graduate scheme?

I applied for the graduate programme just after my graduation in July 2015. There was a four-stage selection process. This started with an extended application form, followed by an online assessment, an on-site assessment day and finally an on-site one-to-one interview.

Upon successful completion of the selection process, I was offered a choice of two graduate schemes. One was the standard graduate scheme which has four three-month rotations within various engineering departments; the other was the design graduate scheme, which has four one-month rotations, specialised training related to design and a six-month placement in design engineering.

I chose the design graduate scheme as it seemed more related to my academic experience and my personal interests while still giving me the opportunity to experience other departments. 

What do you think made you a good candidate for the graduate scheme?

The academic knowledge I had gathered at the university and the invaluable experience it gave me of doing an internship with General Electric as a Manufacturing engineer helped me through the first two stages of the selection process.

The last part of the selection process was mainly to do with my personal and team-working skills. Throughout my school and university years I was actively involved in societies and organisations. For example, I co-founded the Sri Lanka Model United Nations conference in 2008 and was one of the first under-secretary generals, and I helped organise three consecutive S-SAARC (Student South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) conferences. Through these activities, I gained people skills, self-confidence and most importantly the ability to communicate with others.

How early did you start to look into career options?

I started looking at career options from my first year onwards by visiting the university careers fairs. This was how I found out about the graduate scheme and the chance to secure an internship within one of the world’s largest companies, General Electric.

That internship gave me an idea as to where I wanted to be within the vast spectrum of aerospace engineering. From then on I was determined to get a graduate job within the aerospace industry; I felt this would give me a clear career path and the opportunity to develop as an engineer and gain professional qualifications.

Do you think a graduate scheme is a good option for foreign students?

Getting a place on a graduate programme is extremely challenging, whether you are a foreign student or student from the UK. However, the perks of taking part in a structured scheme are that it improves your skills and gives you the ideal experience for that company, as well as giving you development opportunities within the company and helping you to make contacts early on.

How did your university help you to find your career?

I visited the careers centre a few times to get a professional opinion about my CV and cover letter. The careers centre at Loughborough University also organised multiple events and sessions to help students in various ways when it comes to securing a job. These include mock tests at mock assessment centres and one-to-one practice interviews, both of which I attended to gain experience.

What advice would you give when it comes to writing an application for a graduate scheme?

The key is to show determination. To increase your chances, make sure you submit a strong CV along with a cover letter explaining why you as an individual deserve to be on the graduate scheme. Mention any challenges you have faced, including the challenges of being a foreign student in a new country, and explain how you have overcome those hurdles so far.

What's your advice in general to current or future students when it comes to applying for jobs?

University life lasts only for a few years, so enjoy it while you can... but make sure you don't forget why you’re there. Career planning and job hunting doesn’t start in your final year or the year you’re looking for an internship; it starts as you start university.

Keep exploring industry opportunities from your first year onwards and always try to make contacts with individuals from the industry at careers fairs and events. This gives you the opportunity to get to know the requirements and application processes prior to applying.

It is also important to try and receive constructive criticism whenever possible and from whoever you can - whether that means asking lecturers, friends or personal contacts in the industry. The university careers centre and university departments also arrange many career related events that help students.

Are you a recent international student who has graduated from the UK?


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This story was published with thanks to Sri Kandasamy, Country Director of VIEC study abroad counselling services. Find out more by visiting viecsrilanka.com or see the British Council's Global Agents List for listings of British Council trained and accredited education counsellors.