When Rafiul had completed his A-levels he knew that he wanted to find an apprenticeship opportunity instead of going to university. He felt that industry experience was key for his career and therefore felt the option to earn while you learn and attain the essential qualification, whilst gaining valuable practical experience was a better option for him.
He found an apprentice role at Cancer Research UK (CRUK) on the gov.uk website, he applied and was successful. Rafiul is now nearing completion of the Level 3 Science Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship through the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC).
An apprenticeship with impact – bringing development opportunities for apprentices and the existing team
When asked about his experience of his apprenticeship, Rafiul told us:
“We were the first apprentices within our team at CRUK. There has always been good communication and explanation of what has been expected from us. I have been able to bring fresh ideas to different things and get the hands-on experience I wanted to gain. The wider team have also been able to develop or expand on their teaching skills by teaching us, so there has been benefits from both sides.
Towards the end of last year, a fellow apprentice and I had to assist with managing a project unexpectedly. As the process/concept was completely new, there were successes and there were failings, which we learned from every step of the way. It was a new process to all of us. We kept progressing, improvising and learning. I felt I really took a lot away from this, by being able to lead something completely new. We implemented a process that has now been used by newly appointed experts to make a longer-term standardised process; CRUK took many positives away from this too in addition to the work being carried out safely during the project.”
ATAC programme setting guidance for employers and employees
ATAC can support employers in understanding how to best structure the programme to ensure apprentices benefit from on-the-job and off the job education. In addition to providing guidance, the ATAC programme also offers networking and additional learning opportunities to support apprentices and build a community.
Reflecting on his experience Rafiul commented:
“CSR Group (apprenticeship training provider for the Level 3 programme) have been good for any educational needs. The off the job learning time was difficult initially, because this was new to CRUK. However, this was explored, and the challenges have now been resolved. This may be something to consider for other employers at the start of the apprenticeship. ATAC have been approachable and the events, such as the End-Point Assessment (EPA) session have been really useful.
I would say to anyone considering an apprenticeship to consider all your options before deciding on which route you want to take and keep on top of your work; get it done on time. My message to any employers considering supporting an apprentice, would be to do it! Apprentices can brighten your team up, bring new ideas and give you an extra pair of hands whilst they are learning.”
The next steps
Rafiul would like to progress onto the Level 5 Technician Scientist apprenticeship, he is also considering other science-related degree apprenticeships. He is about to complete his End-Point Assessment for his Level 3 programme and will decide upon successful completion of this.
The outcome: establishing apprenticeship scheme and development opportunities within CRUK
A new team within CRUK decided to take on apprentices, benefitting from the additional support provided by the ATAC programme in establishing a structured framework. This resulted into existing staff being provided with the opportunity to develop managerial skills and three apprentices receiving on-the-job and off-the-job training to a level to allow them to take on their own project, feeling extremely valued and considering progressing into further apprenticeships.
About the Level 3 Science Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship
A science manufacturing technician will operate the systems and equipment, involved in the production of Advanced Therapy products. They may work in varied conditions including wearing specialist safety equipment, shift work, research and development or on commercial sites running 365-day operations under highly regulated conditions. A premium is placed on appropriate attitudes and behaviours to ensure employees comply with organisational safety and regulatory requirements. Technicians are expected to work both individually and as part of a manufacturing team, with minimum supervision, taking responsibility for the quality and accuracy of the work they undertake. They are proactive in finding solutions to problems and identifying areas for improving their own work.
This programme is at Level 3 and delivered through CSR Group for 18 to 30 months. Typical job roles may include: Aseptic Process Technician, API Manufacturing Technician, Cleanroom Technician, Process Operating Technician, Quality Assurance Technician, Science Technician, Environmental Monitoring Technician.
About Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK are a charity, who fund scientists, doctors and nurses to help beat cancer sooner. They provide cancer information to the public and raise funds for the work they do. Their apprentice works within their newly rebuilt Biotherapeutics Development Uni, which makes small amounts of new biological treatments so they can be given to cancer patients on clinical trials across the UK.
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 143 apprentices employed across 39 UK companies, and the initiative continues to provide a platform for developing industry innovators of the future.