We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lucy Parr from Solenis, a leading speciality chemical supplier, to gain an insight into the company, advice on the application process and an understanding into her own career journey. Also joining us were two of our students currently working as interns at Solenis, James Tilley (MEng Chemical Engineering) and Ayesha Nawaz (BEng Chemical Engineering), who shared their experiences of their current roles and the application process, and their personal aspirations for the future.
Can you tell us a bit about your roles?
Lucy – I’m an apprentice and intern coordinator at Solenis. My role is to support all our apprentices and interns which are on programmes with us. We carry out like regular one to one support mentoring and training days to develop skills and attributes. I also take care of the recruitment process at Solenis
James – I’m the process safety intern at Solenis. My role is to keep an eye on anything accident related, furthermore any problems which occur suddenly. My role includes finding out why these problems have occurred and making sure they don’t occur again.
Ayesha – I’m a process engineer intern in the project department. And my responsibilities include equipment updates, equipment replacements or new plant modifications or even building a new plant from scratch. Its my job to design and implement these changes. This could include validating solutions by calculations. The most important characteristic I believe is working as a team with other engineers for a unified goal.
Lucy can you describe the characteristics you are looking for in a potential intern?
Lucy – As an employer we are looking for someone with a passion and drive to improve productivity on site. We are looking for good communicators as wide amount of cross-site communication involved when you’re an intern at Solenis. We are also looking for good team players, the individual must be able to work with bigger projects across different departments effectively to be successful as a candidate. Furthermore, someone who has new innovative ideas regarding running and productivity. We don’t focus specific experience being needed just someone who is willing to learn and keen to work in the chemical industry.
And is there a number one skill you look for in a candidate?
Lucy – The main skill for us is teamwork, we talk a lot regarding cross departmental working, and I don’t think a day goes by when you don’t work with someone who isn’t from your department. Team working also has a lot of related skills you must have to be effective as part of a successful team at Solenis.
Can you tell us a bit about the application process of those roles?
Lucy – Initially a candidate will upload their CV to the Solenis careers portal, this will go through to the HR team and we will sit and look through all the CV and carry out any relevant telephone interviews. Telephone interviews are quite basic, they look at you as a candidate and why you want to be an intern at Solenis, and we also run through some standard eligibility questions. From this, you will either be invited to a formal interview or an assessment centre and each role has different processes.
If you were to attend one of the assessment centres, you would be asked to carry out an individual activity, a group activity and then you would be invited for a formal interview as part of the day. We also would provide a site tour and lunch with our current interns.
If it’s a formal interview it’s a competency-based interview giving examples of where you have used soft skills which are relevant to an internship role. We typically offer our placements out at the start of April for roles starting in September.
(To the interns) what were your experiences of the application process?
James – My experience of the application process was good; I only had the formal interview at the time. I sent in my CV and within a week later I was called in, booked an appointment, got the interview and here I am.
Ayesha – My experience was similar to James, I was invited in for an interview, sat with a few plant managers and a few of the other managers, we did a one- to-one interview and I got a phone call three days later saying I got the job, and now I’m here as an intern at Solenis.
Can you tell us a bit about the company in general and aspects such as company culture?
Ayesha – If you weren’t aware, we used to be part of BASF, they sold part of their company to Solenis. We were interns during that transition time, so that was interesting to be involved in the change process. The work environment is very good, everyone is willing to help, and everyone is very friendly. Solenis also provide training days which you can attend and develop your skills or even your academic knowledge. Its all about implementing and learning and we are encouraged to get involved with all the activities.
What is the gender balance in the company and industry?
Ayesha – It’s getting better, there is quite a lot of females on site. Females are rising in engineering, I do work alongside around 15 women engineers, so it’s not too bad. I do have females around me.
Lucy – It’s important to know that we are a company which is looking to expand our equality and diversity across site. To do this we have various things in place we have the ‘Wins’ group – (Women in Industry). We have regular meets and groups based around women in industry and how we can approach this. We are also actively looking for staff from multi faith and other backgrounds, everyone is welcome at Solenis.
Can you tell us about your career journey, how have you got where you are now?
Lucy – I studied public services at Bradford College, and initially worked at Incommunities as a social landlord and started to develop my training, assessor and mentoring skills from there.
I was then a tutor and assessor at Bradford College for apprentices before I started here at Solenis. I have done various roles as a tutor and assessor including recruitment and supporting mentors, and I have sat on lead safeguarding boards. So, my background includes a lot of mentoring and support networking for our apprentices and recruitment within apprenticeships and internships.
James and Aisha, what are your career aspirations?
James – Definitely a career in chemical engineering as I know where I stand now, I’m looking at doing a masters first to check that off my list, then going into a graduate scheme straight after. That’s hopefully where I am headed.
Ayesha – To be honest, I would love to come back to the same company in the process department. I love it and it’s something I enjoy, and it is more open to chemical engineering. I would definitely like to come back to Solenis as process engineer and work my way up.
Thanks to Lucy, James and Ayesha. Solenis are currently recruiting for next year’s placement students, including Mechanical Engineering, Process Chemist and Process Safety, deadline 10th March 2020. See more on the Solenis Careers page, and our internships and placements info and advice.