Matthieu and Alistair - Summer Vacation Work
Farmer’s son, Matthieu , from Orleans, applied for an internship at KWS via the company’s website, as part of his agricultural degree studies at Toulouse University.
"I approached a number of crop production companies and while I was also offered a placement in Germany, decided to go to KWS to improve my English at the same time," he says.
Starting in early June, Matthieu joined a team cleaning out the barns and getting ready for harvest, though he also spent time in the field stringing cotton out above barley plots to keep the birds at bay and transplanting next generation material out in the glasshouse.
Things moved up a gear in mid-July when he started assisting the oilseed rape team harvesting plants from small plot cages, drying and threshing them out before they were sent off to the breeding team in Germany.
"It’s quite tiring and you work very long hours, but the managers try and swap people around, so that you don’t get bored doing the same job for too long. However, it is enjoyable working with a team of 3-4 people."
Matthieu feels that he is lucky that KWS found him a family to live with north of Cambridge, and because he has a car he’s been able to get to work fairly easily and see a bit more of the region at the weekend.
"I have learned a lot about the plant breeding process and if I wasn’t planning to go back to the family farm, it would be a career I’d consider. I’d liked to have seen more of the R&D side of the business but realize that this wasn’t possible over the harvest period."
His most rewarding experience was working with the assistant rape breeder at harvest. "When time was tight, he trusted me to get seed packed and off to Germany; the atmosphere and relationships between the permanent staff and casuals is really good.
I didn’t expect this, but everyone works hard as one team, they know how to release the pressure when work is piling up and keep you happy in what you are doing."
Melbourn based Alistair has worked over the summer at KWS for 5 years now. "The company is well known locally as a good employer and my brother and a number of my friends have worked here.
It is hard work and long hours, but it is good to be with a range of different people, especially the overseas students," he says.
"Over the harvest period, you don’t get much of a social life, but as a group we get on well and do get together for a drink at the weekends.
Two areas of work I have been involved in are combining and sickling. Sickling involves cutting and threshing small multiplication plots or rows.
There’s more involved with combining, but most people switch between teams so get a chance to undertake a range of activities.
Harvest is more automated now, compared to when I first started and the two new combines this year mean there’s less weighing or bagging off.
Last year I was given a few more responsibilities, on occasions leading a group of students when there wasn’t a full time staff member free; it was good to be trusted," he says.
"Over the five years I’ve learned a lot – KWS made me feel very welcome. As a small company it’s a bit like working for a family and I get on well with the permanent members of staff.
I love coming back and would recommend it. One day you are combining, the next cleaning seed, and being outside over harvest is great. It certainly beats stacking shelves at a supermarket!"