The government insists upon every fourth year student completing a one week work experience. This is to give the pupils a taste of what working will be like when they leave school. Many of them will do this after having sat their standard grade exams, so it is very beneficial for those students in particular. I have recently completed my work experience at Glaxo SmithKline Beechams. I found my placement mainly by myself, although Mr Cook, the teacher in charge or work experience aided me in contacting them.
In the following paragraph I shall give some basic factual information concerning my work experience. I was working at Glaxo SmithKline Beechams, Irvine Plantation. It is a pharmaceuticals’ plantation which makes the main ingredients in medicines such as Clavuanate, which in an antibiotic and Paroxetine, which is an anti-depressant. I was there from 2nd – 4th December. My working hours were from 08:30 – 16:30, however on the initial day I did not start until 09:00. The company had been preparing for my arrival. Transport to Beechams is awful.
There are no buses or trains, consequently the only way to travel there is by car. During my three day placement I was driven by my parents. As a result of the dreadful transport facilities there is a canteen, which all staff can use. This is where I ate during my placement. I will now look at some of the health and safety regulations which are imposed by Beechams. The pharmaceutical industry can be incredibly dangerous. Naturally, there are many health and safety rules to abide by. These rules help to ensure the safety of the workers and the safety of the products produced.
Upon entering the plantation, all visitors must be issued with a visitor’s pass from the reception area. Staff must carry their key card at all times, so that they can be recognised and granted permission into private areas only accessible by staff. When entering the penicillin plant all visitors must don a green lab. coat and wear blue rubber soles over their shoes. This is to avoid cross contamination with other products. A hard hat and ear protectors must be worn while in the fermentation area of the plant and eye protectors in all labs.
The final rule that i shall list is, if a chemical spill occurs and you happen to be caught up in it, there are emergency showers throughout the plantation and beside them there is an eye wash station in case the chemical has entered the eye. There are also many more rules. Now I am going to describe the work I witnessed being done around me. Around six hundred and fifty people work in Beechams. However, I only managed to see a small number of them at work. I was primarily based in the Quality Cell, which is predominantly made up of labs.
The people around me were using specialist equipment such as Tirators, the Karl Fisher and Gas/Liquid Chromatographers. I mainly saw the Chromatographers being used. They basically separate a chemical into all the different components it is made up of, by running a process gas through it. The different components react with the gas at different speeds and from these speeds the substances in the chemical can be deduced. This process was used in both the active and raw material labs. I also saw people testing water from the taps in each lab to see if it had been contaminated by any of the chemicals found on site.
On my final day I saw the control rooms for the fermentation process used when making penicillin. There were two people controlling the temperatures and time scales for the process and it was all done by computer. A typical day for me at Beechams commenced with a speech from a member of staff, stating the different aspects of their job, stories of previous accidents in the workplace and a little about what Beechams does. After, I would usually go into one of the labs and see what part it had to play in the process of making medicines and see how it was done. I would go for my complementary lunch, then I would return to the lab.
Unlike in the morning, I would be able to carry out some tests of my own and record the results. Then I would stop at about 16:00 to talk to the person I was working with about their job and ask them the allocated questions from my work experience booklet. Work experience is educational experience for all those who take part in it. Along with everyone else I learned a lot. I found out a great deal regarding the pharmaceuticals industry and how it works, about what it is like to work in a lab all day and exactly the type of tasks that are face by chemists on a daily basis.
I found out about how the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Data Protection Act are put into practise in the work place and why they are so important in any industry, whether it be pharmaceuticals or not. In the paragraph below I will make suggestions about possible ways to improve work experience. In all situations there are areas for improvement. I found that before the actual work experience there wasn’t enough time to organise everything, therefore I would give a couple more weeks time beforehand for this purpose.
I would also include a minibus service for those who would find it difficult to travel to and from their placement, providing that it wasn’t too far away. Apart form these minor suggestions, I wouldn’t change anything about work experience or the process leading up to it. In conclusion, I think that work experience is very valuable to all students, as it provides a taste of the real world and it could completely alter your ideas on what you want to do after having left school. Also, companies involved can have a say in the future of young people, therefore this is an invaluable experience for all concerned.
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