ATAC is delighted to announce its first graduate, as Emilia Reyes Pabon completes her Level 3 apprenticeship, achieving her ambition to become a scientist.

Emilia received her certificate as a Level 3 Operations Technician for advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) having completed her apprenticeship through the University of Oxford’s Clinical BioManufacturing Facility (CBF).

Striving for Success

Emilia studied diligently throughout her time at CBF, dedicating one day per week towards her Level 3 qualification in Applied Sciences through her 20% off-the-job training as part of the ATAC apprenticeship.

This amalgamation of experience and education has provided Emilia with indispensable insights into the day-to-day activities of an Operations Technician alongside the theoretical knowledge necessary to succeed in her career. ATAC has also supported Emilia on her journey through complementary learning and industry networking opportunities.

Since joining in February 2019, Emilia was tasked with core responsibilities vital to the operation of the CBF; these included autoclaving and environmental monitoring within the facility cleanrooms, ensuring critical equipment functionality, disposing of hazardous waste and helping to define standard operating procedures.

Emilia was presented with her certificate by her line manager Emma Bolam, who was integral to her skill development and offered key guidance on Emilia’s career trajectory.

During the last two years, Emilia has made us realise how valuable employing an apprentice can be. I believe that Emilia has great future potential for a very successful career in this field. She has the passion and aptitude to develop and progress her skills and knowledge which will continue to benefit the Clinical BioManufacturing Facility and any future employer. For this reason, we have been very pleased to be able to offer her a new three-year higher apprenticeship – Level 5 Technician Scientist ATMP apprenticeship course, with the intention to extend this by a further two years for Emilia to complete her Level 6 apprenticeship and gain her degree. As a result of the positive experience that we have had with Emilia, we will plan to take on further apprentices in the future as we continue to expand our operations.

Emma Bolam, Head of Production, Clinical BioManufacturing Facility

An apprenticeship with impact

During her apprenticeship, Emilia played an important role at the CBF in the rapid and safe manufacture of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19; a promising vaccine candidate in the fight against COVID-19.

Emilia’s contributions to the team during this time were nothing short of exceptional and were integral to the CBF in being able to rapidly manufacture the vaccine in line with GMP in preparation for a UK phase I/II clinical trial initiated in April. Excitingly, the recently published results from the phase I/II study show that the vaccine induces a strong immune response, with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca now collaborating with partners around the world to study the vaccine in phase III trials.

Emilia had fantastic things to say about her experience:

I really enjoyed my apprenticeship because I was able to assist and learn from different departments such as QA (Quality Assurance), QC (Quality Control) and PD (Process Development). I had the opportunity to learn about the different steps required in order to produce an (IMP) Investigational Medicinal Product. I received really valuable training that helped me develop my laboratory skills and I had the chance to be part of the team who manufactured the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine!  

ATAC gave me the opportunity to participate in different cohorts and activities that helped me broaden my scientific knowledge and improve my communication and presentation skills. As for my new steps, I’m staying at the CBF as an Apprentice Technician Scientist and I will be carrying out a Level 5 Technician Scientist standard while completing a Foundation Degree in Applied Bioscience with the University of Kent, which I’m really excited about. Completing this Apprenticeship will give me the chance to progress and become a scientist in the field that I’m passionate about.

The Next Steps

Having completed her Level 3 apprenticeship, Emilia’s next step will be to progress into a higher apprenticeship at the CBF with the University of Kent; with the help of her line manager Emma and a supportive team, as well as the indispensable experience gained through the ATAC apprenticeship, the future certainly looks bright!

Supported by the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC)

As an advanced therapies apprentice, Emilia and her employer enjoyed access to a wide variety of support provided by ATAC including:

  • Access to learning resources and technical webinars from industry experts
  • Cohort days for apprentices from different organisations to meet, share their experiences and collaborate
  • Advice for professional development, such as presenting and networking
  • Membership to a network of apprentices, employers, and training providers across advanced therapies

Developing skills and employability for the future

ATAC has prioritised a range of programmes, from entry-level to Master’s-equivalent apprenticeships, to bring in new talent and upskill staff for the rapidly growing UK cell and gene therapy industry. The number of ATAC apprentices more than doubled in one year, now standing at 137 apprentices employed across 36 UK companies, and the initiative continues to provide a platform for developing industry innovators of the future.