Graduate Program Lead, Manufacturing

Graduate program on the hunt for talented engineers

“The excitement of creation and discovery is well known to all engineers and for us, having a real passion for the job is essential,” says Conchita Jimenez-Gonzalez, a chemical engineer by background and now program lead for GSK’s three-year Future Leaders graduate program in its manufacturing business.

Now on the hunt for 50 graduates worldwide – around 14 of them likely to be drawn from the UK – Jimenez-Gonzalez believes that the job of making and delivering around four billion packs of medicines and healthcare products every year by the firm’s engineers isn’t fully understood.

“Most people know that we play a major role in global healthcare, but what they may not realize is that the enormous task of distributing medicines, vaccines and other health products around the globe requires the entire spectrum of engineering know-how,” she says.

“We’re looking for chemical engineers to manufacture the active ingredients in our products, electrical engineers to operate high-voltage systems, and mechanical and automation engineers to maintain and troubleshoot highly sophisticated machinery.”

Once the firm is certain that a medicine can save lives or improve health, GSK turns to its scientific engineers to take new products from the R&D stage to full-scale manufacture.

Yet while hard-hat roles are very much in evidence at GSK’s primary manufacturing plants, the ability to deliver to the right people, and on time, requires additional talents.

“Worldwide distribution needs supply chain and logistics expertise to deliver optimum value to the business and the customer, who is always our primary concern,” says Jimenez-Gonzalez.

Technical aptitude is a vital pre-requisite for all trainees – who each experience three rotations – but GSK also places a strong emphasis on “soft skills”, such as flexibility, verbal and written communication, enthusiasm and the ability to work in a matrix organization, across different geographies.

While most trainees will broaden their technical experience via placements based at home, there are also opportunities for work internationally. For instance, around a third of our current UK graduates will have a second or third placement overseas next year.

At 16 months, the first rotation is the longest – giving recent graduates a chance to get used to the company and to corporate life in general. The second and third rotations are 12 and eight months respectively.

“We have deliberately designed the scheme to be primarily focused on on-the-job training because we believe it is only by doing things that graduates can sharpen their technical expertise and forge relationships both on and off the shop floor,” says Jimenez-Gonzalez.

“Graduates are encouraged to start thinking about their future careers fairly early on. Whether they aspire to either organizational or technical leadership, we will ensure that they continue to learn and progress throughout their career at GSK.”

This article first appeared on the Telegraph STEM Awards website.