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I’m Fiona and I started working at British Sugar in September 2016 on the Chemical Engineering Graduate Scheme. I recently graduated from the University of Strathclyde where I studied Chemical and Process Engineering. Within my university course I had undertaken a project based on one of British Sugar’s Co-products, through which I had carried out research on the company and their operations. I was impressed by how British Sugar was able to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and the environment through the innovative use of the by-products of the main sugar process. This was the primary reason I chose to apply to British Sugar, however it wasn’t the only one. 

Throughout the recruitment process I met engineers who had been through the scheme, recent graduates and senior managers as well as some of the HR team and was surprised by the interest the whole company takes in recruiting the best people for the job and the company. After the online application and an initial Skype interview I was invited to an assessment centre at one of the Factories. We had a number of tasks on the day including a group activity, technical interview, personal interview and factory tour. Being able to meet some of the people I now work with early on gave me a better insight into the graduate role and what the scheme involves.

On my first week with British Sugar I had an initial induction week with the other graduates from all disciplines and locations. This was a great introduction to the wider company many of the senior management on the company came to meet us and we were taken on a trip to the Cornerways nursery. Some of the events on this week were quite intense, but were managed well so that we didn’t get too overwhelmed in any one day.

The scheme itself has a clear structure to it, with specific targets to meet every 6 months. The first year is spent in learning the sugar process in depth from bringing the beet into the factory to sending the sugar out. This learning is supported by Module days for each part of the process where all the operations graduates from the four sites meet up, however graduates are responsible for steering much of the learning themselves with support from their mentor, line manager and coach. My role involves working within a shift pattern which includes some night shift work too, a prospect I found daunting at first but quickly grew used to. On shift I work with a team of technicians who’s knowledge of the factory is invaluable.

In the short time I have been here the factory has started up operations for this beet season and it has been great getting involved in the different things going on. Before the start up I had helped out with the commissioning of some of the systems and got to see the factory come to life which was very exciting.

The people I have met have been very helpful and willing to give up some of their time to explain their work to me. There is always something new to see and learn, with so much going on and so much to learn the biggest challenge is fitting it all in but with support from my line manager, mentor and coach I have planned this out to fit my learning around the factory operations so I can make the most of my time. Every day I come to work excited to learn something new and see what the factory is doing that day.