Dear Diary … Welcome to a day in the life of Joe Riches, a 20-year-old on the year in industry scheme. Joe is working as a building assistant before his firm pays him to study construction management at Northumbria University. sounds cushy? you betcha!
Wake-up call
At 6am the first of my two alarms goes off, but I lie in bed till 6.30! The second alarm goes off and I can't put off getting up any longer. My office is based in Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire, next to the M1; it's at least a hour's drive from my home in Lincoln, so every day is a early start. Luckily the company I'm working for recently won its largest job to date – a £12.5m eight-storey student halls development in the centre of Lincoln. This is just two minutes from my house so most days I drop in with the site mail and have a cup of tea before going to head office.

I aim to arrive for 8.30 but the traffic can make me late. As I am the youngest in the office, I brew the first cuppa. I like this bit of the day as it gives me a chance to relax and get myself into work mode.

There's usually some chat about the previous evening's events - I'm always asked whether I went out and how much I drank! The whole office believes all students live in pubs. The atmosphere is great, it's work hard, play hard, so everyone is up for a laugh.

Getting down to it
I never have a set routine; every day is different. One week I was in the office as materials buyer (ordering bricks, roof tiles and such products) on the Monday and Tuesday, then for the rest of the week I was on site assisting a site manager.

You never know what you will be doing, as you have to react to what comes in from clients, contractors and sites. I have experienced all parts of the industry, from the legal and financial side with quantity surveyors to the hands-on side at the building site.

I start by going through the various bits of paperwork left on my desk the day before. This could be simple filing or the distribution of information to other departments or offices.

Come 11am, I fetch the post and once the project co-ordinator has read it I distribute it. Keeping information flowing quickly and efficiently is very important as all the jobs have a deadline to meet and a programme to stick to. Thousands of pounds could be lost each week if we didn't meet our deadlines, so letters need to be answered quickly and information must reach the right people as soon as possible.

Part of my job involves assisting a quantity surveyor, so between 11 and 12 I touch base with him. I'll send out his enquiries to subcontractors and ring round and negotiate the best price for works we require. This isn't as simple as it sounds; it involves a lot of chasing and revising quotes so that everything has been included for and meets the contract specification.

Out and about
Our sites are located around the country so I often have to deliver things and collect materials if they are urgent. It's great to travel and not be stuck in the office all the time.

You never know what you will be doing, as you have to react to what comes in from clients, contractors and sites. Every day is different

Joe Riches

I get to see all the jobs and learn about the different types of construction projects. I also sometimes get sent out and about to pick up urgent things or deliver important documents.

I take on work for other people such as copying drawings and sending out info to people. When a site requires information from head office, they will ring me and I will find it out or copy them the relevant correspondence.

Another thing I do is create the manuals for our projects; they're like the handbook you get with a new TV. These have to be created for every project, so that the building's eventual occupant knows what materials were used, in case anything needs to be replaced. They also advise on how to maintain the building, from checking the fire alarm system to any special requirements when cleaning certain surfaces.

The fun never stops …
Normally we have a working lunch, as there is so much to do, and my various tasks take up most of the afternoon. The year has helped me a lot – now I have so much experience. It has stood me in such good stead for university, shown me how the industry works and also helped my technical knowledge.

Officially the day ends at 5.30pm but you finish when you have done all your tasks. So I often work until at least 6 o'clock, but I don't mind leaving late because the traffic has calmed down and it's a much more relaxed journey home.

Sometimes we have a work night out in Nottingham – usually it's on a Thursday – where we stay in a hotel and party. This is great fun as everybody unwinds and enjoys themselves. Then the next day the office is always quiet, as we battle to recover!

On most nights, though, I like to switch off from work and relax so I normally head down the pub with friends for a couple of pints before getting a early night.

What's it all about?

It’s a gap year with a difference. The Year In Industry (YINI) is a national organisation that places bright gap-year students with companies for 12-month work placements before they start their degree. Students are carefully matched with companies on the basis of their chosen degree subject, which is usually engineering, science, IT or business. YINI gives you the experience and skills to help with your degree and employment prospects, while at the same time earning you a real salary. It is also a brilliant opportunity to increase your chances of sponsorship throughout university – helping you dodge those nasty tuition fees! Here are some titbits to tempt you:
  • More than 600 students were placed through YINI in 2002/2003
  • Students typically earn £10-12,000
  • 26% of YINI students go on to gain a first in their degrees, compared with a national average of 10%
  • In 2001, 40% of YINI students going on to study engineering were sponsored through university.
Getting involved in YINI is very straightforward. You can check out the website at – it even has an online application form. You can also call YINI on 0121-414 8116.