Getting career ready with West Fraser

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Manufacturer of engineered wood-based panel products, West Fraser helps young people into the world of work

West Fraser is always keen to help young people with a positive start in the world of work as one young student found out when he joined the company for a four-week internship.

“We joined the Career Ready network a couple of years ago as we wanted to help support the organisation in its efforts to let young people experience a real working environment. I was really pleased to be chosen to mentor this year’s student, Michael McFarlane,” said West Fraser’s market intelligence manager, Theresa-Marie McConnachie.

Career Ready is a charity whose aim is to provide school-age students with work experience and a good initial CV.

Students are prepared for an internship by undertaking a registration process of form and log-book completion, participation in masterclasses and an interview with the employer.

Developing transferrable skills

West Fraser was also given a list of requirements and set up a full programme before Michael joined. “We were determined that Covid was not going to prevent Michael from getting a real feel for the company and what it’s like to work in a large international operation.

“We devised a full four-week schedule for him, so he experienced all departments and aspects of the company, albeit remotely!” said Theresa-Marie.

Michael, a 17-year-old high school student, with his sights set on a career in bio-medical engineering, was a little daunted when, first thing on a Monday morning, he was taking part in a Zoom call with five people he had never met before!

“The people at West Fraser are all so friendly and welcoming so I really didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Michael.

“Earlier this year I didn’t think the placement would go ahead so I was really pleased when it did, and I really appreciate the time and effort everyone at West Fraser put in to making it happen; especially Theresa-Marie and Frances Reekie”, he said.

“I had been accustomed to remote learning during the pandemic but the 90-plus Zoom calls I’ve taken part in since joining the team has been an experience.

“It has given me the chance to speak to so many interesting people, not just in the UK but also in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, and learn what they do and how each part of the operation works.  I had no idea that so much goes into producing a panel of wooden building material!”.

Theresa-Marie added: “I really wanted Michael to leave us with transferrable skills so, once he had built up a bit of knowledge of our company, I asked him to put together a PESTLE analysis, (a framework to analyse Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors influencing an organisation from the outside), and he rose to the challenge very well!

“He has been involved with data analysis exercises and has compared European construction forecasts. Michael didn’t have much experience of an Excel spreadsheet but he definitely does now!”

The end of the internship was marked by a presentation from Michael on what he has taken away from his time at West Fraser.

“I have learnt the importance of good timekeeping; the benefit of teamwork and I feel I’ve improved my listening skills.

“I’m quite a sociable person but this internship has given me the opportunity to meet five or six new people every day and I’ve learnt to listen and interact with them on a deep level. That is definitely something that I will take with me that will benefit my studies and future jobs. I also now have a LinkedIn account and I’ve had help with my CV too.”

Clearly Michael has been enjoying his time at West Fraser and he has certainly made a lasting impression.

“As a result of Michael’s outstanding behaviour, we were pleased to award him a grant to pursue engineering. The West Fraser grant initiative is designed to help bring more talent into the industry and help young, deserving people pursue their dreams,” commented West Fraser HR director, Hazel Smith.

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