About Charlie

Charlie has lived on his own from a young age and, as he puts it, barely made it through school. After leaving school he went to college for a year to study towards becoming a professional chef but quickly realised that it was not the career for him.

Determined to find the right career path, Charlie searched for opportunities through the gov.uk website where he could pursue his passion for science and complete hands-on training at the same time. He applied to join the apprenticeship programme at Cobra Biologics and was successful in securing a position as a Quality Control (QC) apprentice.

As an apprentice, Charlie is able to work and learn at the same time and contribute to the day-to-day activities at Cobra Biologics. His role involves ensuring consistent quality throughout the manufacturing process, testing the pH of samples, validation of equipment, GMP cleaning of labs whilst ensuring the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are strictly adhered to.


Continued support and delivery throughout COVID-19

When asked about his experience of the apprenticeship, Charlie advised:

“If you are considering doing an apprenticeship you should 100% do it. The apprenticeship has been an amazing experience for me – for [personal] growth and [career] progression.

Initially, I found the apprenticeship difficult due to personal reasons. The support that I have received, and the progression review meetings have kept me on track to make sure I succeed with my apprenticeship. My off-the-job learning is split over a couple of days so I can focus on my lab work and my studies.

CSR Group (training provider) have been great. The programme teaches you the competencies required in the workplace and all the academic aspects that you would learn at College. The difference is that the teaching is much more informal – I was able to ask more questions and in detail compared to how I would be able to in big classrooms. They have even adapted their delivery for COVID-19, so nothing has been delayed.”


Developing independent and valuable staff members

I have enjoyed the ATAC outreach the most! I have never been shy in public speaking, but I really enjoy being an ambassador and speak to other apprentices from across the network.. The events have also supported my professional development, and the support materials for EPA have been really good.

There have been a few standout moments in my apprenticeship – one of them was when I was getting ready for EPA and I looked back at everything I have learnt over the last few years. This has made me realise how much I have grown in my profession and how I have been trusted to train others. Another one of my proudest moments was winning two Employee of the Quarter Awards at Cobra Biologics!

Apprenticeships offer opportunities to people who are willing to learn and prove their worth. People without a degree are just as capable as people who have one, it’s just an alternative learning journey to achieve the same end-result; to be competent and qualified in your role. Apprenticeships teach you other aspects that enable you to come on leaps and bounds compared to other routes, such as time management in the workplace, responding to emails, and completing paperwork appropriately.”


The next steps

Charlie wants to achieve his Level 3 apprenticeship and move into a QC Lab Assistant role. He is interested in starting the Level 5 Technician Scientist apprenticeship if available within his role at Cobra.


The outcome

With Charlie expressing ambitions to progress his QC career further, the ATAC programme has succeeded in empowering him with the experience and skills he needs to advance. The hands-on experience and the support from ATAC have also helped develop Charlie’s general skills, improving his confidence as a public speaker and networker. As he enjoys his successes, Cobra also gained a valued employee that has formed an integral part of their QC laboratory and an expansion to their workforce.


About the Level 3 Science Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship

A laboratory technician may carry out both routine and one-off laboratory testing and perform a variety of technical support functions across the organisation. Working safely and ethically is paramount and many companies operate under highly regulated conditions because of the need to control the quality and safety of products. Laboratory technicians are expected to work both individually and as part of a laboratory team, and be able to work with minimum supervision, taking responsibility for the quality and accuracy of the work that is undertaken.

This programme is Level 3 and delivered through CSR Group for 24 months. Typical job roles may include: Analytical Support Chemist, Technical Support Scientist, Microbiology Support Scientist, Process Development Technologist, Laboratory Assistant, Senior Laboratory Technician, Technical Specialist, Quality Control Laboratory Assistant, Laboratory Co-ordinator, Technical Laboratory Assistant, Laboratory Analyst, Laboratory Research Assistant.


About Cobra Biologics

Cobra Biologics is a leading international contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) providing DNA, Viral Vectors and Microbiota for pre-clinical, clinical and commercial supply. Cobra has two GMP-approved facilities in Sweden and the UK, each with specific expertise tailored to serving our customers around the world. They offer a broad range of integrated and stand-alone contract development and manufacturing services for clinical trials and the commercial market.

As a trusted provider and a key partner in the drug development and commercialisation process, they take pride in their manufacturing excellence and comprehensive range of services to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

Supported by the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC)

Advanced therapies apprentices enjoy access to a wide variety of support provided by ATAC including:

  • Access to learning resources and technical webinars from industry experts
  • Optional 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
  • Access to the ATAC App for further information, resources, community connections and more!


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 136 apprentices employed across 36 UK companies, and the initiative continues to provide a platform for developing industry innovators of the future.