My Experience as an Apprentice

by Elizabeth Lowe

How I found out about the apprenticeship and the application process –

Having left school at 18 in 2019 after completing my a-levels, I was undecided on the career route I wanted to pursue. At the time I was working in retail but was sure that this wasn’t the line of work for me. I stumbled across the apprenticeship on Indeed and was intrigued with the job description. I have always had a love for science but I had fallen a bit out of touch with it due to not picking it for my a-level subjects. I thought this apprenticeship would be the perfect opportunity to get back into science and decided to apply to be an Apprentice Laboratory Technician through the University website.

The application process was straightforward and required me to answer a series of questions about myself and particular skills I had that would transfer into the role.

Starting during the pandemic –

My apprenticeship journey officially began in May of 2020. This meant that the start of my apprenticeship was more of a challenge due to the first two months of my job being remote due to Covid restrictions. I worked from home as well as hybrid worked when restrictions eased, and was even furloughed for a few months before being able to physically return to campus full-time. Although challenging at times, the team were extremely supportive and made the start of my apprenticeship a pleasant experience.

Fast forward to now, I have completed my apprenticeship and I am now a qualified Associate Technician.

My role within the lab and working with the students –

My role has provided me with both knowledge and over two years of valuable hands-on experience of working in the teaching laboratories at the University.

My main responsibilities include assisting other members of the technical team in the day-to-day running of the laboratories. This includes being accountable for the preparation of solutions, setting up and maintaining laboratory equipment, aiding students in their laboratory sessions and carrying out general housekeeping.

Working with the students seemed daunting at first but as my confidence grew in the workplace I began to enjoy interacting with them and now find it quite rewarding.

The best part about the apprenticeship –

The best part about the apprenticeship was that I was able to gain practical experience whilst on the job. As I didn’t have an a-level or equivalent in science I also had to undertake a level three applied science course with Canterbury College. The benefit of this was that I was able to gain a qualification and I was able to gain the theoretical knowledge that went hand in hand with the lab skills I was gaining in the workplace.

Advice to anybody thinking about completing an apprenticeship –

I feel that apprenticeships are a brilliant opportunity to learn skills on the job whilst gaining a nationally recognised qualification.

My main piece of advice would be to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the resources around you.  I was extremely lucky to be part of such a lovely and supportive team that were willing to help me learn and grow in the work environment. It’s important to remember that there are no silly questions. Although initially daunting, asking questions allowed me to become more engaged and develop a more in depth understanding in my role. This allows you to flourish in your workplace as an apprentice and part of wider teams.

Where I hope my apprenticeship will take me and skills I can take with me –

Having completing my BTEC with a double Distinction* grade and passing my apprenticeship endpoint assessment, I am now a qualified Associate Technician at the University. My main hope for the apprenticeship was to build up practical experience within the laboratories as well as theoretical knowledge which are skills that I am now able to take away from my course.

In addition to this, I applied for and been offered a development role at the University of Kent as a Chemistry Laboratory Technician. This means that I will be studying for a Chemistry degree part-time, alongside being part of the technical team in the chemistry teaching laboratory. This is an excellent example of the professional progression that can be possible through completing an apprenticeship course.

When starting the apprenticeship I never knew the path it would take me but I am grateful for the opportunities Kent have given me and am excited to see where this next role will take me.

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