When local Wrexham manufacturing company Solvay offered our trainees work placement, we jumped at the opportunity to offer a non-stereotypical female role to our trainees, and to work in partnership with a local company who understood our values and ethos.
A manufacturer and developer of composites and adhesives for industries including Aerospace, Motorsport and high-performance automotive, Solvay employs approximately 250 people and is part of the global Solvay Composite Materials business.
The company actively promotes the “Solvay Way” global sustainability initiative, to demonstrate “societal aims” including improving youth employment, education,environment and solidarity (community). By offering WeMindTheGap work placements across the Wrexham site, they successfully introduced manufacturing business to a non-stereotypical group of young women.
To get the ball rolling, our team engaged with heads of department at Solvay, to explain why we run the traineeships, the structure and the key part our employer partners play. Key members of staff from each team agreed to be a mentor, to walk alongside the trainees while on site at Solvay. Our team delivered mentor training and provided an insight into the type of challenges the mentors were likely to face on a day to day basis. And, in addition to identifying punctuality and attendance as an issue,the team raised other practical points that had not been considered before,like “Who should be their buddies at lunch?” and “Do we need to mind our language on the shop floor?” The senior team created a clear plan of where each trainee would be, with whom, and when. The training manager understood that the vital induction piece needed to engage the trainees and the receptionist recognised that she could be the overall mentor and buddy for lunch, be the listening ear and vital communicator of all problems to our team. And it worked!
As for the trainees? Every trainee who visited Solvay has said it was one of their favourite placements, because of the care they received, the clear structure of who and what they would be doing and the opportunity to taste employment in an environment that they would not have previously considered. Gifts were given to the trainees at the end of the placements, tears were shed at leaving, and promises to attend Graduation were made.
In fact, so many of the Solvay team wanted to be involved in each feedback session following a placement that a new format was created: instead of just hearing from one member of staff a complete 360-degree feedback session was held with trainee, Aunty and the Solvay team. It has changed the way we looked at feedback sessions and is now our “best practice” model.
Eight members of the Solvay team have since attended Graduation and they cheered the loudest throughout! Their support has transformed the trainees’ views of manufacturing and what working in a team looks like. Inexchange, the experience has given the Solvay team an insight into a group of young women they hadn’t worked with before and the challenges faced by them in gaining employment.
We look forward to a continued partnership with Solvay, who have become an important part of our traineeship programme.