Manufacturing and processing: career FAQs
How can I get a job in manufacturing and processing?
The main employers in this sector are large, multinational organisations which usually have well organised, formal graduate programmes. The graduate training programmes often involve rotations into different aspects of the company so that you get exposure to a number of functions and locations. While your role may initially be technical, trainees will also be getting management training and experience which will influence their subsequent career progression very positively.
What are the different areas of work?
Broadly, the opportunities for graduates fall into the following functions:
- Research and development
- Finance (purchasing, cost accounting)
- Production (quality and plant management)
- Commercial (sales and marketing)
- Human resources.
Graduates usually start in one area but to ensure career progression they will have to gain exposure to a number of different areas, and graduate programmes often facilitate this.
What’s involved in the application process?
Application forms are more common than CVs due to the scale of the recruitment process: multinational employers usually have a standardised recruitment procedure. Assessment centres are common, often focusing on skills such as numerical and spatial reasoning and also management potential (interpersonal skills). The recruitment process can have quite a number of stages as these employers invest a lot in their new employees and want to make sure they have made the correct choice.
When should I apply?
You can expect typical graduate recruitment dates, so October to February is when the bulk of these recruiters are active, although some will accept applications year round. Alternatively, recruitment agencies or university careers services based near an industrial area could have a direct relationship with a particular firm.
What qualifications and skills do I need to work in manufacturing and processing?
For many job roles, you will need a relevant degree, and a postgraduate qualification is a real advantage.
Skills required to do the job include:
- Good technical knowledge
- High level IT skills
- Excellent attention to detail
- Problem solving and analytical ability
- Sound judgement
- An ability to work on several projects concurrently.
Skills relating to management include excellent communication and negotiation skills, because supervisory management and leadership ability will be important. Presentation skills, time management and language skills are also sought after.
What are the opportunities for professional development?
This sector has constant and ongoing opportunities for professional development – the technology involved is always being updated and staff will be required to upgrade their skills. As careers progress, training may focus more on management or finance skills rather than on purely technical know-how. Undertaking an MBA is quite a common route within this sector for people with senior management ambitions.
What are the salaries in manufacturing and processing?
Graduate salaries in this sector are typically higher than the average graduate salary. Postgraduate salaries can be higher, particularly if the specialism is very sought after. Shift allowances can increase take-home pay.
What is working life like?
Shift work is common in this sector and the working environment is usually in an industrial area, outside a city. As increasing amounts of manufacturing are conducted abroad, for example in India or Eastern Europe, promotion is often dependent on being geographically mobile. The working environment can be quite ‘hands on’ which appeals to a lot of people as you can see the results of your actions quite quickly.