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Engineering in the poultry industry: Meet Becky Websdale

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12 January 2021

MEng Mechanical Engineering student Becky Websdale never thought her placement year would take her into the poultry industry. Yet, following a highly successful year seeing her gain 100% overall satisfaction in her employer feedback, Becky shared that her future direction is clearer now thanks to her placement work.

“Originally I had never thought of going into poultry,” Becky explained. “My heart was set on Bowler Motorsport. I was encouraged into the field to try something different and, after meeting everyone I would be working with for the year, I felt more reassured by my choice.”

Becky continued: “My role was as a Principal Engineer at Avara Foods, Brackley. I was given the opportunity as a result of my British Poultry Council (BPC) scholarship which offered a placement sponsored by Avara.

"For the first eight months of my placement I looked after Intake - where the birds came into the factory. In this area I was in charge of maintenance planning, continuous improvement projects, problem solving during and after breakdowns and much more. This was a thrilling experience and was a great introduction to the factory.

“After that, I was the Principal Engineer of Packing, where the birds came to the end of their process in the factory and were either packaged whole or sorted to go to Telford (our portioning site). In this area, there was just as much continuous improvement and breakdown analysis alongside working closer with production managers and staff, ensuring the seamless work between both departments.

“Not only this, but during this time Avara were investing in a new packaging hall which was soon to go live. Taking over from the amazing work of the previous principal engineer, I was able to take over running weekly trials on the new equipment. I also assisted in the training of engineers and production staff, allowing for an easy change over at the weekend, filling people with confidence (which is always difficult when it comes to such a big change). 

“Alongside this, I worked closely with the project manager to provide improvements to the new equipment ensuring it works to our requirements. During the year I learnt people skills, technical skills, planning skills, communication skills and many more.”

While she gained a lot from her experience, Avara equally saw Becky grow and develop in her role. Avara’s feedback commended Becky highly, giving the student a great boost going into the completion of her degree.

Regarding her feedback, Becky commented: “I was thrilled knowing my hard work had paid off, especially remembering how nervous I was at starting in a brand new environment. Even though it was a difficult year, I was able to turn it around and gain as much out of placement as I could.

“The experience has meant I have found what I want to do in the future. It’s really driven my passion for engineering and now I’m hoping to get back into that industry as soon as possible and gain new experiences that I need to become chartered.”

That passion to learn is what drew Becky to Harper Adams initially, feeling it would be the best environment to see her thrive. She said: “Harper gives me experiences that I may not have had at another university and allows much more contact with tutors alongside people studying other courses.

“Studying engineering can be very challenging at times, but the new experiences and things I have learnt are invaluable.”

Becky is counting down the days until she can get back to the manufacturing environment following a job offer from Avara upon graduation and is looking forward to all the experiences to come.

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