Takeda SIP blogIn January 2012, Takeda Cambridge became one of the very first companies in the UK to take on a Higher Apprentice in Life Sciences. Three years on, Linda Millett (Head of HR at Takeda) shares their experience and the successful outcome for the company and the apprentice.

When we first heard about Higher Apprenticeships, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to encourage school-leavers into the life sciences industry, providing them with an alternative career pathway and practical laboratory experience.

In my view, too many young people are unaware of the alternatives to university and these opportunities are not always flagged to them by their teachers, careers advisors or indeed their parents. Of course we recruit graduates and will continue to do so, but university is not the only option and I firmly believe that an apprenticeship equips young people with practical, work-based, transferable skills which really benefit them and the organisation they work for.

Our Higher Apprentice, Natalie, joined us early in 2012 and it was clear from the start that she was committed and keen to learn. Originally planning a gap year after completing her A levels, Natalie decided that a work-based apprenticeship with a Foundation Degree “thrown in” (her words!) was a good option for her.

Natalie has achieved consistently high academic results throughout her degree course and has made a real and lasting contribution to our drug discovery efforts. Phil Mitchell (Senior Research Leader, in vitro pharmacology) comments, “Natalie has had the opportunity to see all aspects of the drug discovery process and to have that exposure is unique for an undergraduate.  I view the Higher Apprenticeship on a par with a degree and the additional hands-on experience plus an academic qualification is invaluable”.

Natalie was also a finalist for the title of Higher Apprentice of the Year in the UK Life Science Skills Awards 2013. She has decided to continue her studies and is now completing her Honours degree via the University of Kent – we are sponsoring her to do this. The passion and commitment of Dr Scott Wildman (Medway School of Pharmacy) deserves a mention here too – his vision and support for the Higher Apprenticeship scheme has been outstanding.

Our investment in Natalie and the Higher Apprenticeship Scheme has really paid dividends. We will have a fully trained graduate with more than three years’ work experience in the laboratory and we are now in a position to offer her a permanent job, whilst continuing to sponsor her degree programme. An excellent outcome for everyone involved and a real success story.

I continue to be a passionate advocate for apprenticeships and the skills agenda in life sciences and I am currently a member of the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) Board.  The SIP recently secured funding of £52 million from Government and employers for investment in new and emerging science talent, creating more than 7,800 education and skills opportunities over a two-year period. One initiative involves the creation of SMART apprenticeships with tailored Apprenticeship Training Plans (ATPs) designed around the employer and the job rather than the qualification. This approach identifies the training and qualifications required by the business, allowing employers to develop the Apprenticeship to meet their business needs.

I would encourage all employers to invest in our industry’s future by investing in a SMART or Higher Apprentice.

Importantly, the SIP is also providing a means for employers to take ownership of the skills needed to generate innovation and growth in the science industries. To find out more about the SIP’s vision and aims go to www.scienceindustrypartnership.com

To find out how you can benefit from this initiative and to get involved, email Elizabeth Curran at Cogent,elizabeth.curran@cogent-ssc.com.

Read our first case study, from Chris Mullen at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies to find out more about the Workforce Development and the SMART apprenticeships available through SIP.