Meet Izzy, Chemical Engineering Degree Apprentice on the Science Industry Process and Plant Engineer (Degree) Level 6 Apprenticeship, GSK
Why did you choose to pursue an apprenticeship within pharma?
I never knew what I wanted to do when I was in Sixth Form. All I knew is that I wanted a career where I contributed to improving people’s lives. I was always interested in science and maths but applied to university for Environmental Science as I was not very informed of other opportunities other than university. I came across my current apprenticeship on GSK’s website and their values aligned with mine so I thought I would be a good fit for the company. I did not know much about Chemical Engineering until after the interview process, but I can now confidently say this role encompasses all I have been looking for in starting my career; science, maths and contributing to improving people’s lives through manufacturing medicines.
How has ATAC supported your development?
ATAC have a clear understanding of each specific apprenticeship standard along with organising various free events for apprentices where these requirements can be fulfilled.
For me, these events have been extremely diverse: health and safety courses, visiting advanced therapies research centres, being on panels for National Apprenticeship Week and political conferences. All improving my knowledge and skills in various areas. ATAC’s Lunch and Learn sessions are also amazing. People from all over the industry talk about their career pathways. It is a brilliant opportunity to think more about what to do after my apprenticeship and the challenges/ decisions I may face.
What has been the most rewarding or interesting project that you have been involved in and why?
It is impossible just to pick one due to my role having so much variety. I have been involved in solving deviations to enable antibiotics to be sent to patients on time, raising awareness of process safety hazards to senior leadership employees on-site, leading a group of over 200 early careerists called ChemTalent, projects that control the effects of potential explosions and problem-solving to improve the efficiency and profit of our manufacturing process to mention a few. There are unique learnings and rewards in everything!
What would you say to someone who is thinking of pursuing an apprenticeship in advanced therapies?
Be as informed as possible before making your decision. The advanced therapies and pharmaceutical sector have so many opportunities to offer. You can get so much experience, your degree paid for, a salary, annual leave and an early start in growing your professional network. There are many apprenticeship routes other than science or engineering within the sector so do your research- you may be surprised! If you would like to experience innovation and problem-solving, this is the perfect place to start.
You relocated twice for your roles at GSK. These were big decisions, what advice would you give people in the same situation? How did ATAC support you in building your network?
If someone else is wondering whether to relocate for an apprenticeship, I would say go for it! It has been a great learning experience for me. If your employer is offering more experience, an opportunity to broaden your network and technical skills then why wouldn’t you? I look at it as a chance to trial different environments to make a more informed decision of where I would like to work in the future. My apprenticeship experience has been maximised by relocating.
Being the first apprentice of my kind within GSK, I found it difficult to come across anyone that understood everything I was experiencing. When ATAC reached out to me, I was introduced to multiple people on similar apprenticeships to me, expanding my network and support system. This has also opened my eyes to what opportunities are available outside of the pharmaceutical sector and in advanced therapies with my degree/ and experience. ATAC reaches across the whole country. I know wherever I go I will always have them as a constant pillar of support which is comforting.
How have you progressed in your career since starting your apprenticeship?
Over the past three years, I have been involved in a variety of projects, problem-solving, process safety work and work outside of stereotypical process engineering. I have had experience on a primary and secondary manufacturing site and may even have some biopharma/ R&D experience within the last years of my apprenticeship. I am now at a stage where I am almost treated as a full-time employee; being given independence and responsibility with work but also still having the extra support system available to me at all times if needed. With off-the-job learning (heavily supported by ATAC), my network and softer skills have developed massively. Especially, gratefully being given CIA’s Young Ambassador of the Year 2022, I have been given opportunities I never expected starting my apprenticeship in 2020. I cannot recommend an apprenticeship within this sector enough!
What are your future plans?
First, I plan to finish my apprenticeship in 2025 with a Chemical Engineering degree! After that, I have no plans set in stone. I hope I will constantly broaden and deepen my knowledge and skills in whatever I do. I would perhaps like to see what work opportunities lie further afield than the UK.