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Diageo: hiring across the world of STEM


Deirdre Delaney, head of operations at Diageo’s Belfast packaging facility

Deirdre Delaney, head of operations at Diageo’s Belfast packaging facility

Deirdre Delaney, head of operations at Diageo’s Belfast packaging facility

Diageo is an integral part of the community in Northern Ireland both as a major exporter and employer and is best known for a wide range of brands including Guinness, Harp, Hop House 13, Rockshore, Smithwick’s, Baileys, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Gordons and Tanqueray.

Employing over 320 people across three sites in Northern Ireland, the company’s footprint includes a beer bottling and packaging plant in east Belfast, a global Baileys facility at Mallusk and corporate headquarters in Capital House, Belfast.

In November 2020, Diageo launched ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress,’ a 10-year action plan to help create a more inclusive and sustainable world. In Northern Ireland, the Guinness and Baileys brands are leading the implementation of Diageo’s 2030 targets and will work toward achieving ambitious targets in greenhouse gas emissions, water waste and packaging.

Diageo’s sites in Northern Ireland already use 100% renewable electricity and by 2030 will also be net zero carbon.

Deirdre Delaney, head of operations at Belfast packaging in east Belfast, said: “Diageo has a highly integrated supply chain across the island of Ireland.

“Beer is brewed and kegged at St James’s Gate in Dublin and moved by tankers to our site at Marshall’s Road in East Belfast for packaging and bottling. We’re a 24/7 site with 145 full time employees and we’re responsible for the bottling, canning and packaging of a widely-loved range of beers like Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s.

“This year we have been integral to the roll out of high-profile innovations including Guinness 0.0 alcohol free stout and Guinness Nitrosurge. The site here in Belfast has also been key to Diageo’s plastic packaging ambition.

“We replaced plastic ring carriers and shrink wraps from multipacks of our canned beers with 100% recyclable, sustainably sourced and biodegradable cardboard. Since we switched to these new beer packs, we have removed 600 tonnes of plastic from our operations each year, and we’re looking at the new opportunities in terms of making our business more sustainable.

“We’re an extremely busy operation with this site producing a record volume of 18.3 million cases of beer in the year up to June 2021, up from 15 million cases in 2017. Or to put it another way, we fill a million cans and bottles each day. Some 60% of our output supplies the local markets in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, while 40% is loaded onto containers and shipped to the rest of the UK, the US, Europe and Korea.”

According to the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Report, published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) this summer, turnover from food and drink processing in Northern Ireland has risen by an estimated 4% to hit nearly £5.4bn in 2019, with the value added by the sector to the economy rising by 7% to £998m.

Food and drinks firms are also accounting for a growing share of manufacturing employment in Northern Ireland, making up 30% of jobs in the sector in 2019.

“As a fast-paced manufacturing site in an exciting global industry, we have a diverse employee base with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills,” Deirdre says.

Women and those from ethnic backgrounds are often under-represented in these kind of jobs and we want to increase diverse representation in STEM roles both at Diageo and in the broader industry through apprenticeships and ‘returnships’, and help to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.

“We are currently offering opportunities for both apprentice engineers and apprentice packaging operators here at Belfast packaging and we firmly believe Diageo apprentices have the best of all worlds. The on-site, hands-on, fast-learning programmes are perfect for people who are curious and have a willingness to learn. If you want to gain an industry recognised qualification that will set you up for a career to be proud of, you’re in the right place.”

Lauren Johnston successfully secured an apprenticeship with Diageo in August 2020 and has completed her first year in Engineering Maintenance L3 apprenticeship studies with South Eastern Regional College at the college’s Lisburn campus. Speaking about her role as an apprentice engineer with Diageo, Lauren says: “Every day is different, and this is what attracts me to the role.

“My main task as an apprentice is to work safely as part of the maintenance team, providing support and to actively engage with asset care shift. On this shift, all the machines are shut down so the team can carry out works within the machines that it is not possible to do while they are up and running.

“This is a great time for me to get an in-depth knowledge of all the functions of the machine. As well as preventative maintenance we also do any outstanding work needed on the machines, essentially these are jobs that are labelled with a weekly or monthly check.

“My role as an apprentice engineer isn’t only hands-on work. I have opportunity to get involved with training and improvement projects within the company including cost-saving and productivity initiatives.

“I was nominated for Apprentice of the Year earlier this year which was a lovely boost to my confidence along with becoming an ambassador promoting the apprenticeship route to other interested individuals. My ambition is to progress to a higher-level apprenticeship, but I also have the opportunity to complete in-house training within Diageo to support my progression in the company.

“Sometimes it takes a little longer to discover what you are passionate about and what you want to pursue for a career, but I feel that all my previous experiences have combined to support me in this new step for a career in engineering. I have received exceptional support from family and work colleagues who always encourage me to be the best I can.”