I had always looked forward to the period of my internship (SIWES) as I just could not wait to get that industry experience and the needed little break away from the rigorous studies in school. Towards the end of my third year in 2018, I had begun searching for companies that could provide adequate practical experience of the theoretical knowledge I was constantly getting from the classroom.
Nigerian Breweries Plc topped the list of companies I had in mind. I spoke to a few people who had previously interned at its Lagos Brewery. This heightened my interest to intern there. So, began my Ultimate Search, to paraphrase one of the company’s popular game show for one of its equally popular brand.
Imagine this: on the day I took my school’s IT letter to the company located in Iganmu, on Lagos mainland, I took the test for IT applicants. The test had 20 questions, which lasted 20 minutes. The result of my test was not hidden from me as most organisations would normally do. I was elated that I passed with a score of 16 out of 20. I was asked to immediately proceed to the clinic for my medicals. I was impressed and was not surprised: NB is a multinational, after all.
Getting down to work
On my first day at Lagos Brewery, I got up as early as 4:30am as I had to “travel” about 26km from the outskirts of the city to Iganmu, to be at work by 7:30am. Fortunately, this was on my dad’s route to work; so he dropped me off there.
The first thing that piqued my interest in the brewery was how safety was the number one priority, as everyone coming into the brewery for the first time is made to watch a safety induction video and take a safety test before access into the brewery would be granted; after which the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment would be provided. Walking into the brewery, the atmosphere screamed safety, organisation and neatness with the many signs provided at necessary points.
Upon entry, I was placed in the Technological Department, where I spent most of the day getting introduced into the brewery as an intern. As an intern, I had access to lunch every day, a carton of NB non-alcoholic beverage every month and a monthly token of N12,000. Close of work was 4:30pm and 4pm only on Fridays.
“Travelling” back home was not easy for me as I had to board about three to three buses and sometimes when Lagos traffic got crazy, I had to use the commercial bikes not minding its attendant risk. Most days, I never got home before 8pm and I still had to wake up at 4:30am for work. This became my routine for a period of almost 20 weeks. During my stay as an intern in the Lagos Brewery where I was placed in the Technological Department, I was supervised by Mr. Solomon Yakubu, who aside taking me through practical experience, equally gave fatherly advice on life issues generally.
I also worked in the Brewing Department, where I was supervised by Mr. Chidi Nwangwa. The Technological Department is also known as the Quality Assurance Department/Laboratory, where the quality of every material that is used in brewing is tested through various analyses (physical and chemical), starting from the raw materials to the semi-finished and finished products. In this Department, I learnt how to carry out various analyses and how to prepare the reagents used for the analyses under the supervision of various analysts. Analyses like Esters and Diacetyl test using the gas chromatography system, which is used to separate good/sweet smelling flavours (Esters) from off flavours (Diacetyl) in beer, residual sludge analysis using the Buchner funnel to check for the efficiency of the filter used in brewing, bitterness test in beer in process (wort) and finished beer to know if the quantity of the substance responsible for bitterness in beer (hops) is adequate, test for CO2 and foreign gases to ensure it conforms with the norm of the product.
I also learnt how to carry out tests such as pH, alkinity, magnesium and calcium hardness, Iron, free chlorine, Sulphate, phosphate, chloride, turbidity on all types of water used in the brewery. The analysts I worked with: Mrs. Uzoamaka Ibemere, Mrs. Francisca Akpen and Mrs. Lorina Ohamuo, were amazing all through my stay. In this Department, I learned a lot about diligence, hard work and paying attention to details.
The Brewing department also called the ‘Brew house’ is where the conversion of grains like sorghum and barley to beer occurs – which goes from the intake/pre-treatment of grains to storage in a silo/silos – up to the point of beer storage. I was taken through the processes it took grains (raw material) to be converted to beer (final product) which include milling, mashing, filtration, boiling, cooling, yeast pitching, fermentation, carbonation and storage by Mr. Okorie Ifeanacho Kizito. Brewing gave me a deeper understanding of chemical engineering principles like transport phenomena, material and energy balances, separation and thermodynamics after seeing how it works in real life.
My internship/SIWES programme with Nigerian Breweries was real life-changing as I did not only get the practical/industrial experience of the theoretical principles learnt in class, but was also able to inculcate such soft skills as teamwork, effective communication, taking responsibility, ability to work under pressure and time management. I was also able to carry out safety measures prior to my acquisition of knowledge and skills in Health, Safety and Environment (HSE). These skills set will help me in any and every aspect of life.
The only thing I wish I did differently was to have applied for other internships earlier than the proposed year to have more experience in the “real world”. Oh well….
. Bolarinwa, a final year Chemical Engineering undergraduate of University of Lagos, wrote via: [email protected].