My Internship at the UK Window Group (Masco Holding)
Praktikumsbericht von Max Otto Pietsch, AHR 13 F
From 2nd of July to 28th of July I did a work placement at the UK Window Group (Masco Holding) in Caerphilly (Cardiff), Wales.
I applied at the UK Window Group, because I had a personal contact to one of the managers of the Masco Holding. The company is very interesting to me, because it is an industrial mid-sized company, where I could see the whole process from production to shipment to the customer.
In Cardiff I expected to gain many experiences, as I would be working abroad. Here I wanted to improve the fluency and vocabulary of my English. I also expected to meet friendly and open-minded people. But I also had some fears, as had I never lived on my own before without family and friends. I did not know anybody in Cardiff.
Preparation of the work placement
The process of preparing my placement was very long. Originally I wanted to do an internship in the United States. I already had found a host family and a workplace, but in the end I could not get a visa, because as a pupil from Germany I was not allowed to work in the United States. Thankfully I had not booked the flights yet. So I applied for a placement with UK Window Group.
The UK Window Group has seven sites, all located in Great Britain with over 500 employees, the headquarter being in Caerphilly (Cardiff). The company is the largest manufacturer of PVC windows, doors, composites and glass. The company manufactures 10,000 frames, 15,000 glass units and 500 composite doors per week in the manufacturing sites based across the UK. In Caerphilly only windows are produced.
As the UK Window Group belongs to the Masco Holding, which is an international Holding, I received the confirmation from the Masco Holding in Luxemburg. As the company was not able to find a host family for me, I was told that I would live in an apartment, which belongs to the company Saco departments. On the website of this company it said that the apartment consists of a kitchen with a washing machine, a dining room, a bathroom and a bedroom. This was great, because I would not have to bring clothes for everyday as I could wash them. When I received the address of my apartment I knew that I would live in the centre of Cardiff. In this confirmation from the Masco Holding I was given the contact of my mentor looking after me in Cardiff. I had a lot of questions which I wanted to ask my mentor so we made an appointment for a Skype call and I asked her the following:
- Could you pick me up on the first day of my placement?
- Where could you pick me up and at what time?
- What is your mobile number?
- What are the working hours in my placement?
- What is the dress code at work?
- What free time activities are there?
- Is there a possibility to have lunch at work?
- What will be my tasks?
She was able to answer all of my questions, so I felt well prepared going to Cardiff. She told me to wear polo-shirts at work, so I had to go shopping before I went to Cardiff. She also told me that she would pick me up by car on the first 2 days as the company was 20 miles away from my flat and added that the company will provide me with a company car, while I was in Cardiff, so I would be more flexible. This was very exciting for me as I never had driven a car on the left side before. She also emailed me the 3 main topics on which I should focus during my internship:
- Production footprint optimization and HR (Human Resources) & HC (Human Capital) implications
- Change in working shift patterns
- Price & conditions analysis
These 3 points showed me that I would mainly work in Human Resources and Finances.
Execution of my work place
Working in the company UK Window Group was very interesting. On my first day I was picked up by my mentor who also works in HR. She looked after me for the next 4 weeks. First of all I had to pass a drug test, which every new employee has to pass. Then I got a tour through the company with 2 others who also had their first day. That was the first time I saw an open-plan office for more than 50 people. Here everybody can see what the others are doing. After that we went down to the production floor where we got another tour. We had to wear safety shoes, a safety jacked, safety goggles and ear plugs. This tour gave me an idea of the steps of production, because you could see that there were many processes behind producing a window, although you could not really understand a word the tour guide was saying as it was very loud. For lunch I went down to the cafeteria and had a bacon sandwich. Here I also met some people from production, everybody was friendly. On the first day I already could see that there was a good working atmosphere in the company. After lunch I had a meeting with the HR department including the HR manager for Europe. Here we talked about the On-Boarding process and discussed what details belong to this process. In the first two weeks I worked on this project most of the time, which describes the process a company goes through, when it hires a new employee, starting with the advertisement of a new job and ending with the new employee passing the probation period. For this I created a folder with an apprentice for the HR department, showing the whole process. In the following I am going to list everything which has to be included in the folder for a new member of staff working in administration. Firstly there is a job description, which a person can read and then apply for this job to the company. If the person applies for the job and they like this person then you can see from the folder that there will be a job interview. If we want to take this person onboard, the company has to send him the contract with the restrictions and rules. If the person signs the contract and sends it back, everything has to be prepared before the new employee starts work. A workplace needs to be made available and the IT department needs to set up a laptop and a computer with a new outlook account for the new employee. Between the first day and the job interview the employee has to do a urine test to be tested on drugs. If the person does not pass the test he or she is not allowed to start working in the company. The company also helps if the new employee has trouble finding a flat and moving house. On the first day the employee will be introduced to everybody in his department. After that the new employee has to watch a power point presentation about the health and safety regulations. After that the employee gets a tour through the production, so he/she can see how the windows are produced. After the tour a few colleagues should take him/her out for lunch so he/she can already get to know a few more colleagues. After that the work desk is shown to the employee and now he/she is ready to start work. When the employee starts working at the company his/her probation period starts. The employee will have probation interviews with his/her manager. The probation period lasts for 3 months. At the end of this period the employment is either confirmed or ended. Here also ends the period of the Onboarding-process.
In addition to the folder we made a few new presentations for new employees, which tell the employee a bit more about the UK Window Group. Besides we made a film on production floor, which shows how the products of the company are manufactured. New employees and customers can now watch this film and see how many processes are necessary to produce one product. We also filmed the interview of company managers, who introduced themselves to welcome the new employees. All these films are used during the On-boarding-Process.
Every employee has got a personal file and it is compulsory to keep the data for ten years after the employee has left the company. Due to digitalisation I had to scan these folders in my third week. It took most of this week, because every file nearly consisted of 80 sheets. I did this job, because the management had decided to keep the folders in digital form. This safes a lot of space as you can throw the files away now.
During this week a number of managers had a meeting at a hotel and I visited them for lunch. My mentor and I also run some interviews with them. I also saw the footballer Gareth Bale there as next to that hotel is the national sports centre, where the welsh football team practises.
In the last week I worked at the reception and in the finances department. At the reception I enveloped and stamped letters with a stamp machine. Here I also met many different people. I also met somebody from Germany, which was funny because I had not spoken German over the last four weeks. In the finance department I did accounting. Here I sorted out many customer invoices into Excel spreadsheets. In this department I also shredded a lot of paper, which had been digitalised and therefore not needed anymore.
Free time and activities
Difficult for me was the experience that I had to spend much time on my own and therefore I had to plan most of my free time. So I explored the city by myself and walked around a lot. In Cardiff I saw many people from different countries and cultures. The surroundings of Cardiff are very beautiful, because the landscape is wide, hilly and very green. In Cardiff itself there are many parks, where you can go for a nice walk. Here I was also able to go out for a run very often. In Cardiff there were also some golf courses, where I was able to play. I also got to know the game croquet, which I played with some colleagues of mine after work. The game involves hitting wooden balls with a mallet through hoops embedded in a grass playing court. The weather was fantastic over the whole time. It did not rain once when I was in the UK.
Reflection and Evaluation
In Cardiff it was the first time that I lived alone in a flat. This was a very good experience for me. I bought food and cooked for me every day and I also tried to keep my apartment as clean as possible. I also put new sheets onto my bed and did some washing every week.
I experienced that breakfast is very different in comparison to Germany. In the morning you can already eat sausages with baked beans and potatoes. Another good experience was driving a car on the left side. First I found it a bit difficult driving on the other side as everything was the other way round, but I got used to it quickly. On the last day of my stay I went out for supper with my colleagues. This was a good chance for me to say good bye to everyone. Although before we started supper the manager for HR in Europe announced that he had dismissed the personal chief of the UK Window Group. Many of the HR department already knew this, but it was still a shock to most of us, also to me as I had talked to this person every day when I was in the company. He had already been with the UK Window Group for the past 19 years. For me this decision is an experience I will never forget.
Looking back, my stay in Cardiff was a great time. I really enjoyed this placement as I learned a lot and got to know many different people. I would take the chance again to do an internship in a foreign country. I would recommend to everyone who has chance to do an internship or to live abroad to do it, because it is a valuable experience.
Mit großer Freude habe ich an dem Erasmus-Programm in Cardiff teilgenommen und möchte mich bei dem Förderverein des Berufskollegs Wirtschaft & und Verwaltung Ahaus e.V. für die Auszeichnung meines Praktikumsbericht bedanken.
Max Otto Pietsch