Lucy’s apprenticeship has helped her develop knowledge and skills that will be invaluable to her future, while maintaining a steady income.
Why did you choose an apprenticeship over a university degree?
As an older apprentice, I have spent the last 10 years working and learning on the job so I felt an apprenticeship would fit better with my previous learning style. I had already adapted to learn in a working environment, and I understand the benefits that come from having both academics at the university and professionals in the industry. I felt that I would gain a vaster working knowledge by immersing myself in the industry so I can better relate the knowledge I gain form the course to what I would be doing in the field.
Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
I feel there is no typical day. Every day I have been set new challenges and responsibilities to build upon the skills I need. Some days we will be in the lab doing experiments, troubleshooting, and better defining our processes. Other days we will be analysing data and working on documentation to better establish working procedure. When working in this environment it is important to ensure that safety and communication is proficient so regular cleaning and meetings are important to build a safe and productive working environment.
Apprentices are paid a wage and have their tuition fees paid by employers; do you think that has been a benefit of undertaking an apprenticeship?
It is an amazing opportunity to be able to gain a qualification while being paid. I would say this is a huge benefit of apprenticeships for mature students as it enables you to maintain a steady income at the same time as studying. Although, it would be false to say that it comes easy. It take a lot of dedication and determination to thrive in both work and study. As someone who has been out of education for a while, it has taken me a bit of time to familiarise myself with learning at a higher level while grasping the needs of the job role. I would say I have had to put in a lot of extra hours to get myself to the level of organisation, understanding and confidence needed to be an apprentice.
What have been the challenges with working full-time and studying?
At first, I felt a little overwhelmed as I had been out of education for a long time, and I felt I needed more time to understand the information I was given. However, I now realise that a lot of what I am learning on the job relates directly to the course and if I need that extra help to establish the basics my team at work will gladly support me. The academics at the university are always willing to have a conversation with you if you are struggling. It takes some time to adjust but eventually you find a balance.
Is there anything you have learnt in class that helps you in you day-to-day working life?
As I have progressed in the curriculum, I feel the course has given me a better understanding of what cell and gene therapy is and how it works. I am currently in the downstream department so for me, biochemistry was really important. I now have a deeper understanding of how different downstream processes work in regard to their interactions and the importance of pH, temperature and conductivity on interactions. This knowledge has allowed me to work more independently when carrying out experiments and has enabled me to participate more in work-based discussions.
What were some highlights of the higher apprenticeships for you?
Some of the highlights of the apprenticeship would be the ATAC days. These are very valuable experiences allowing you to network with other apprentices at the same time as opening your eyes to other aspects of the industry. I have been able to visit a lot of other companies and learn from their professionals which I have found very inspirational.
In what ways has this higher apprenticeship made a difference to you and your career?
This higher apprenticeship has taken me in a completely different career path. It has shown me that I can diversify my skills and take on new challenges. It has opened my eyes to the different opportunities available and proven that it is never too late to try something new. It has challenged me in every way and given me the confidence to succeed in both my professional and personal goals.
What advice would you give to people considering a higher or degree apprenticeship?
My advice to people looking to do a higher or a degree apprenticeship would be to embrace the journey and seize every opportunity you are given. There is a wide network of apprentices in the UK and many support systems set up to enable your development and give you the opportunity to succeed. Learning on the job gives you invaluable workplace experience that will propel you forward in your career while gaining the education foundation through the university. Apprenticeships give you the flexibility to learn in a way that best suits you.