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01869 338890

Year in Industry: Katie - I didn't want a 'gap year'

Katie Mawdsley from Preston has just finished a working gap year with Procter & Gamble as part of The Year in Industry scheme. She is going on to read Chemical Engineering at Imperial College and here explains why she took her gap year and what she has gained from it.

What made you want to do a gap year?

I didnít want a 'gap year' but chose to do a working one... a Year in Industry.

The opportunity to gain an insight into what industry was like and have a new challenge other than exams was appealing to me. I could never imagine how I could have filled my days without having a specified timetable from someone else but that was actually one of the easiest parts; my days were sometimes too full!

I wanted to study Chemical Engineering to understand the technology that goes into everyday products that we take for granted, and to understand how a test that works in a test tube could be scaled up to provide millions of people with that product. When I heard about the Year in Industry scheme, it seemed sensible to start to get that insight now so that I had an extra special insight when studying.

How did you find out about The Year in Industry?

There was an optional talk during careers week at college. I wasnít going to go because I could have just gone straight home but my Chemistry teacher said to me ďoh, youíll be going to this talk wonít you Katie?Ē... So I felt obliged, went and loved it. There were 2 students presenting, I remember one being from Rolls Royce- not a company that initially I thought Iíd work for but they sold it to me anyway!!

Nobody else from my school applied, but I have pushed to ensure that I can go back and talk about it, because more people should know about it and seriously consider it.

What was the selection process and how did you find it?

I had the talk in June, and started the application form in July, over the summer holidays. I waited until I had my AS results and then the day after results day, I applied. At this time, people were still applying to start in that September (I was a year in advance). I had my telephone interview and filled in the forms required.

I then started getting emails about companies that were looking for people with similar interests to mine and I had to decide if I would like to work there and whether I could move away to those locations. At first, I thought Iíd stay at home but there werenít many opportunities around my area so I decided Iíd apply to places further away. I said yes to a few and heard nothing back. I got one from Procter and Gamble, sent my CV and was invited to interview. I had a thinking skills test, two one-to-one interviews and a group activity. My eventual supervisor was leading the group activity on the day so I had met him before I started work. He emailed me to introduce himself and the team though!

What has been surprising?

The amount of responsibility I have been given and the way I have been treated like everyone else. I work with teams of people who have been in the company between 1 and 30 years and I am treated the same. It wasnít that I didnít expect everyone to be nice and accommodating, I just didnít expect to be included in the work so many experienced people are involved in. It also surprises me how busy I am.

What hard or soft skills have you needed to learn?

How to present data. Not just the speaking but the preparation and ensuring I am efficient with what I show to get my message across. I have learned when to approach people for help (sooner rather than later) and know how to get my messages across to get the most from that person.

Has working in industry changed your ideas about your future career at all?

It has shown me how much I really want to work in industry again during and after my degree. It has made me fall even more in love with Chemical Engineering and I canít wait to study it.

My Year in Industry has also allowed me to mix with people from different education backgrounds and has fuelled a lot of thought in post degree options like PhDís before going into industry. I am not sure what Iíll do as I donít know how much I will love University life compared to industry so I am excited about exploring this option more. This said, even after a PhD, I want to come back and work in industry.

I now have more of an awareness not only about working in labs but about project management, time management, finance and sustainability of projects; so much more than just theoretical science in action.

Would you advise others to take a Year in industry and why?

100% yes! I wish more people were aware of it and it was the norm to take part in a working gap year after A-levels (or equivalent) than waiting and having a gap year during University or after. We shouldnít wait to be around 20 years old before having the opportunity to meet a range of people in a professional environment and learn the professional skills I have learned this year. No time is too early once we know what we want to do.

Hopefully, when I graduate, I will be a supervisor of a Year in Industry student. And if my company isnít involved with the scheme, Iíd like to persuade them to be.

I think people think the scheme is for those who donít know what they want to do yet or for people who are looking for a gap year, but it is for all types of people. I already knew what I wanted to do and didnít feel I needed the year out to mature or anything like that but it has still been the best decision I have ever made. I have gained so much from this year without losing anything but a year, and what is that in the grand scheme of things? A year in industry now could mean your career progression later is much, much faster, or that you donít look for a job as long when you graduate.