(Above: Mark Gatrell, head of R&D at Sika Limited with the current intake of internship students)
Mark Gatrell, head of research & development at Sika UK, discusses the value that Sika graduate internships bring to the business
The importance of science within today’s economy should not be underestimated. It’s essential for a country’s prosperity, environment, health, and quality of life. So, when it comes to the next generation of scientists for industry, how do you inspire and find them, to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation?
Graduate training programmes and internships are an ideal way to train and develop a workforce of homegrown talent. While construction product manufacturers are perhaps not household names as far as prospective interns are concerned, Sika is a globally renowned name within the industry, something that is recognised by new applicants and highly valued.
Sika’s UK Research & Development department offers four graduate internships, operating in either polymer synthesis; coating formulation; sealant and adhesive formulation; or cement chemistry. These posts are based at our three sites in Preston, Leeds and Welwyn Garden City, and run for a one year, fixed term.
There are significant benefits of internships for both the company and the intern. Sika has been extremely impressed with the students who have participated within the scheme since it commenced, and the skills and knowledge that they have brought to the business. It is seen as a valuable route to develop relationships with a group of highly talented people, who will soon be looking to build careers within companies such as Sika. The graduate programme brings a new influx of ideas and initiatives every year, which have contributed significantly to the development of new products, and the growth of intellectual property.
The scheme offers interns a meaningful placement, with engaging work in product development and testing. Time is usually split evenly, between contributions to the ongoing development programmes, and a single dedicated project. This is selected on the basis of its value to Sika, and applicability to being the subject of the intern’s thesis.
For the intern, the opportunity to spend a full year in employment within product development teams and surrounded by some of Sika’s leading experts within their field, is an engaging and highly motivating experience. There is incredible progress in their understanding of the business and its products over this time, as well as significant growth in their capability, presentation skills, and business acumen. The company invests heavily in its people, and the graduates join and benefit from our learning and development activities.
Sika is a firm believer in the merits of industrial placements, and often experiences stronger performance at interview from those students who have completed industrial placements.
For many of the company’s interns, an industrial placement potentially marks the beginning of a career path. Understanding of the importance of networking, effective time management, presentation skills, and organisation, are rapidly developed. Success in this environment is seen to offer greater intrinsic rewards, though the consequences of failure are far more significant and apparent. Sika believes this exposure provides an engaging challenge for candidates entering the workplace and provides the impetus for developing new skills.