Moulding a Career: Maria Lopez
As part of our new ‘Moulding a Career’ series, we’re publishing a six-part blog detailing the progress of Maria Lopez, a graduate trainee with Surrey-based technical trade moulder, Broanmain Plastics, as she reflects upon her journey to full qualification.
Entry 1: Mastering the Basics
Maria Lopez moved from Spain with a degree in Chemical Engineering and ambitions to learn English and launch her professional career as an engineer.
After completing a Masters in ‘Process Systems Engineering’ at University of Surrey, Maria embarked on a mammoth job search submitting on average 10 CVs daily for several months before landing a trainee position in January 2017 with specialist technical trade moulder, Broanmain Plastics.
Recognising the size and scope of the global plastics industry and the job security it could potentially offer, Maria was excited to apply her scientific knowledge and carve out a career.
“I had covered plastic properties as part of my degree. Yet I had no practical experience of the sector. In order to do a proper job, I needed to understand all the what, why and how’s of injection moulding,” said Maria.
“It’s important to be up-to-speed about the sector you work in. I regularly check news sites relevant to injection moulding, including BP&R, as well as websites applicable to the wider engineering community.”
For Broanmain, Maria’s appointment was a step change. Operations Director, Jo Davis, explained: “Our industry suffers from a lack of technically qualified processers. Most setters train on the job as there are very few, if any, relevant college and university courses available in this country. We identified that our business needs technicians who can take a more scientific approach, and have the skills, knowledge and ability to develop and improve processes.”
Shadowing her Manager formed a large part of Maria’s practical training in the early days. “On day one I borrowed and began reading the company’s injection moulding process manuals,” she explained.
“One of the biggest external misconceptions about injection moulding is that we push a button and the machine sets itself and runs automatically. But you need to understand everything, from the basic machine parameters to all the different variables, including temperature, pressure and speed and how each impacts another. Problem solving and analytical skills also feature strongly in my work.”
Six weeks into the job and as part of her introduction to the injection moulding world, Broanmain enrolled Maria in the first of a series of new courses. Designed by Sumitomo (SHI) Demag and delivered at the company’s newly opened Training Academy, the Level 1 Introduction to Injection Moulding gave Maria the opportunity to gauge her knowledge, learn how the machines, cooling systems and hot and cold runners work, and interact with people from other companies.
“It was useful to have some experience and then test what I’d learned with professional input. It helps to embed knowledge better,” Maria continued.
“When I returned to Broanmain at the end of the introduction course I felt much more confident independently performing tool changes and adjusting the machine settings.”
Coming up in Entry 2: Valuing strong work ethic and passion