The North East Process Industry consists of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, speciality, petrochemical and commodity chemical companies. Their combined economic power provides about £8bn of GDP and over 25% of the region’s industrial base, employing over 34,000 people.
NEPIC (the North East Process Industry Cluster) is a network organisation representing over 200 process industries - chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and speciality companies - across the North East of England.
Information about joining the process industry
There are two ways to join the process industry:
- As a Technical Apprentice. Such vocational trainees are highly valued in the industry and are funded through their training by a local company. From the age of 16 onwards the process industry recruits people into technician training. Working with local training providers, such as TTE, LDR2 & FE colleges, training leads to NVQ's and, for those interested, a degree via University.
- As a graduate coming into a diverse range of careers as scientists, engineers and into all business functions. Graduates will usually attend a university and take an honours degree in a science or engineering discipline (e.g. Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Polymer Sciences, Analytical Chemistry). All five North East Universities offer degree courses relevant to the process industry.
Examples of what people in different jobs actually do at work
Process Technician jobs
Operates complex manufacturing processes and machinery often computer controlled in a highly regulated environment to standard operation instructions. A key skill is the ability to investigate and correct problems as they arise.
Laboratory technician analytical jobs
Carries out very precise analytical tests on products, raw materials, environmental and safety samples. Able to repeat accurately detailed analytical instructions and make observations of unusual occurrences. No products are allowed to leave process industry sites without passing the detailed testing procedures carried out by laboratory technicians.
Laboratory technician research & development jobs
Carries out scientific experiments under the guidance of a scientist and has to keep an accurate record of what was done and what was observed. The details of these experiments are often scaled up to become the processes and products of the future.
Engineering technician mechanical jobs
Will build up an in-depth understanding of how machines work and are best maintained. Regularly stripping down and repairing existing equipment and ensuring the correct installation of new machines. Keeping detailed records of performance in order to ensure that breakdowns are kept to a minimum by carrying out routine maintenance.
Engineering technician electrical jobs
Most modern machinery is run with electrical power. Electricians ensure that the correct electrical installation is in place for any item of machinery. This becomes more complex for a collection of machines or indeed for a whole process industry factory. Electricians will be involved with power coming from the National Grid through to the safety of hand-held pieces of electrical equipment such as computers.
Engineering technician instrumentation jobs
Most modern process industry plants and processes are controlled centrally with computer systems. There are many types of instrumentation used e.g. mass and flow measurements, pressure and vacuum measurements, ph and water purity, analysis of gases, liquids & solids, opening and closing many types of valves and switches. Instrument Engineers design, build and maintain complex control systems that feed data to monitoring computer systems.
Engineering technician welding and construction jobs
Process Plants are often large scale and require steel structures to hold large pieces of equipment. The equipment is often connected by steel and glass pipelines. During the maintenance and construction of these facilities, Welding and Construction Engineers will build and repair the buildings, process plant and machinery. These skills will involve scaffolding, earth-moving, concrete casting, building structures, lifting equipment, welding and pipe construction.
Administration & business assistant jobs
Office work of all types is involved. Computer skills are essential. Jobs in Reception, Accounts, Sales, Purchasing and Secretarial are likely to be carried out. Administration jobs can also be found in many technical departments such as manufacturing, R&D and Engineering etc.
Examples of some typical career progression routes
- Process Technician > Process Team Leader > Process Supervisor > Process Manager > Factory Manager > Operations Director > Global Operations Director
- Laboratory Technician Analytical > Analyst > Quality Assurance Practitioner > QA Supervisor > QA Manager > Qualified Person (authorised to release pharmaceuticals) > Site QA Director > International QA Director
- Laboratory Technician Research & Development & D Scent & D Tea & Leader > R&D Manager > R&D/Technical Director > International Vice President R&D
- Engineering Technician Mechanical, Electrical, Instrumentation, etc> Engineer > Maintenance/Construction Team Leader > Maintenance/Construction Manager > Engineering Manager > Engineering Director
- Administration & Business Assistant > Administration/Marketing/Sales/Purchasing/Accounts Executive > Administration/Marketing/Sales/Purchasing/Accounts Team Leader > Administration/Marketing/Sales/Purchasing/Accounts Manager > Business Manager
All the of the career routes can also lead to business leadership positions, many Managing Directors and Chief Executives within the Process Industry have come through the career routes shown above. The four routes shown above are not set in stone and there are many examples of people moving between the routes.
For example, a Senior Executive in the North East took the following route:
- Laboratory Technician > Analyst > R&D Scientist > R&D Manager > Operations Manager > R&D/Technical Director > Site Director > Managing Director > Global R&D/Technical Director > Chief Executive
Information about relevant courses at colleges across the North East
If you are interested in visiting a college - contact the college.