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Graduate placements in pharma

UK university student Jess Sheasby talks about her industrial placement in GlaxoSmithKline’s info resources team

GlaxoSmithKline GSK LondonThe number of undergraduates taking up industry placements within UK pharmaceutical companies has dropped dramatically in recent years, falling from 530 in 2007 to 268 in 2011.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Association (ABPI) says the sector should be concerned.

Placements, the UK industry body explained, offer valuable training for a research career, while students appreciate the opportunity to experience research in an actual industrial laboratory.

One such student is Jess Sheasby. The 22-year old from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, is studying MCom Computing and Information Systems at Sheffield Hallam and is currently on a one-year industrial placement (IP) in business analysis at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Working with the pharma company's information resources department Jess works with several teams across a diverse range of projects, with a specific focus on innovation.

Her projects include GSK Benchmark in Literature, which involved assessing the GSK publication records using journal metrics data, and the Voice Text Project, which entailed developing a text to speech tool to transcribe company webcasts, making it easier to search through scientific studies. Another of Jess' projects examined how GSK could benefit from using Google Earth.

Jess has also been involved in the wider GSK community. She explains: “I worked together with other industrial placements to organise and manage team building and events such as the well attended 2012 Olympics inspired event called 'Walk the Walk'.

“I've also been heavily involved in the day-to-day working life at GSK and, along with the other industrial placements, I took part in the 'Out of GSK' day where members of staff spend one day of the year helping out in the local community. I was also lucky enough to participate in the Pit Stop Challenge, where a team of three of us worked together to change the tyre on the McLaren Formula 1 Car.”

Jess was also involved in the GSK work experience programme, working with younger students.

“We had a few A' Level students help out at GSK for a one week work experience placement – I really enjoyed working with them it's great to see companies like GSK supporting education at all levels.”

Jess also produce a video about her and her colleagues' roles and experiences at GSK Stevenage: “The purpose of the film was to show industrial placements at other GSK sites what kind of projects we are working on. It was really useful as they shared theirs with us too.”

GSK, in common with many pharma companies, has a well-established placement scheme. Such schemes can play a key role in finding the next generation of industry employees, and many of those participating in the scheme go on to take up full time roles within the sector after graduation.

Where she has in the past focused on the technical elements of her subject, Jess' placement is opening up the more business and systems side information resources to her.

Jess says she has found the whole experience incredibly beneficial: “Beyond developing my skills and gaining invaluable experience, I've also built great contacts and will have strong references for when I graduate and look for a full time role. I would say to any potential IPs that they shouldn't be afraid of changing location or going into a working environment. One of my main concerns was moving away from my friends and family, but I've made loads of new friends and I love my job.

“You've got to take the opportunity and put your career first. You might not get your first choice, but don't panic – this wasn't my first choice, but now there is nowhere else I'd rather be. If you don't get accepted straight away try and use your feedback constructively, and keep going. The only other thing I would say is apply early!”

25th April 2012

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