My route into food engineering at the Wrigley company
By Sarah Cain

Name: Sarah Cain
Age: 32
Job title: Shift Maintenance Business Unit Leader
Employer: The Wrigley Company
Qualifications: NVQ Level 3 in Electrical Engineering Maintenance, BTEC in Engineering, Currently studying for a Foundation Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Plymouth University
Lives: Plymouth

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"Today was the day I re-enrolled for my 2nd year at Plymouth University… I’m starting to feel scared, but excited to be learning new engineering skills that will help me be a better engineer in the future.

Although I am not a “hands-on” engineer anymore I still have to think like an engineer to help my team be successful, so I’m always striving to learn new things.

It helps me to be successful through understanding the issues and challenges that my team face, as well being able to offer ideas and solutions.

I work in the food manufacturing industry at Wrigley (Wrigley make chewing gum, mints, sweets and more - Ed). In this industry there are lots of things to consider, not just the engineering! If one of our machines breaks down, we have to consider the impact that will have on the product we’re making.

Every minute that our machines are down is time that could be spent creating our products – the product that goes out of the door, onto our customers’ shelves and ultimately into our consumers’ mouths!

When that happens we have to think of the safest and quickest way to fix the machine, and we also have to consider any quality implications. Could the work we are doing to fix the machine possibly contaminate the product? Have we cleared the work area? The last thing we want is anything going into the product while we’re trying to fix the machine. It’s my job to make sure my team make the right decisions when fixing our machines and take all of these possible problems into account!

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an engineer but the one thing I noticed at school was that science, maths and English were definitely the qualifications that seemed to have most importance when it came to every job I looked at. Although they were not my strongest subjects I worked really hard to do well in them because I wanted to create as many job opportunities as I could.

Although I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I completed some online testing for career advice. The results showed that I would be suited to an avionics engineering role (“avionics”, or aviation electronics, covers the electronic systems used on aircraft, satellites, and spacecrafts, including communications, navigation or the display and management of various systems).

I always wanted to travel, so thought that joining the Royal Air Force would be a great way to get paid while getting more qualifications, as well as getting to travel at the same time!

This was an electrical and electronic engineering apprenticeship, which is a subject I found particularly interesting. I love understanding why things work but also, more importantly, trying to figure out why something has stopped working!

It’s a great feeling when you successfully fix something important that’s broken. You have to be logical, and correctly identify what is wrong. When you’ve fixed it the feeling of satisfaction is the best feeling you can get. You’ve also brought value to the company you’re working for and it’s really rewarding!

Getting my apprenticeship made me feel like I’d learned everything I needed to be able to do my job. It also gave my colleagues confidence that I had all the right knowledge and qualifications to do my role properly. This really made me feel that I was capable and just as good as everyone around me. This really inspired me, especially when I was the only girl in the job!

I left the RAF to work as an engineer for South West Water, undertaking planned and reactive maintenance to all of the fresh and wastewater sites around Devon and Cornwall. I loved elements of this job, but wanted to move on to further my career, eventually becoming the first female engineer to work for Wrigley.

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Although I’ve been an engineer for the last 14 years I’ve never allowed myself to think that I know everything there is to know. Technology is always changing, advancing and becoming smarter. Therefore, my job is always changing, advancing and requiring me to be smarter!

With that in mind, I think that the more professional development you can do, the better. 14 years on I’m still learning and completing a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Plymouth University. It’s a part-time, day release course which I’m studying alongside working at Wrigley!

Studying and gaining a degree will open up more doors for me in the future as I work my way up the management ladder. It’s hard work but it’s worth it. Like I said at the beginning - I’m feeling scared and excited!"

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