#NAW2024: Will Crisp's journey through Level 5 Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship

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This National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February 2024), Will Crisp, Research Associate at Beacon Therapeutics, shares his exciting journey through a Level 5 Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship just after finishing his A level.

Can you provide a brief introduction about yourself and the apprenticeship program you're currently involved in?

I have recently finished a level 5 laboratory technician apprenticeship, while working as an apprentice at Gyroscope Therapeutics. I am 22 and started the apprenticeship after finishing my A levels.

What inspired you to continue down the route of an apprenticeship programme?

I wasn't sure on what I wanted to study at university, so I decided to look into apprenticeships as I wanted to start working but also wanted to gain further qualifications. I think the Level 5 apprenticeship stood out especially, as I would get the opportunity to study a subject I enjoyed while also start work at a biotechnology company and work on exciting new therapies. Given the trends of growth in advanced therapies development, I thought it was likely the skills from the apprenticeship would be in high demand in the future. Of course it's also nice to not take on any student debt and start earning a reasonable salary straight out of school.

What skills have you found to be beneficial during your first apprenticeship with company X that you will be bringing to your second apprenticeship?

I have gained a tremendous amount of skills over the course of my apprenticeship. Alongside the theoretical knowledge you'd expect from university I have also gained numerous technical laboratory skills as well as soft skills, such as time management. I think doing an apprenticeship also provides a different kind of motivation than what I would have had at university, where I can see how the theory is being applied to my work it builds upon my desire to learn and grow, and helps to put everything into perspective.

In what ways do you believe the skills, experience, and training acquired through the apprenticeship programme will help you with your career goals?

I think the apprenticeship programme has provided me with a wealth of different experiences. The program itself encourages you to continuously improve yourself and the company you work at over the course of it, in preparation for the final assessment (EPA). I have also gained practical skills such as presenting, planning and managing my work and how to professionally communicate with stakeholders. I am thinking about completing a PhD further down the line and feel the experience I have gained through the apprenticeship would make me a very strong candidate. If I change my mind on that there is also the opportunity to study a Level 7 apprenticeship which would allow me to continue my professional development.

What are you most looking forward to in your second apprenticeship programme?

I will actually be completing my Level 6 qualification as a "self-study" while working in a full time role as a research associate at Beacon Therapeutics. This has worked out well as even on the Level 5 apprenticeship there are ways to "top up" to the Level 6/Bachelors at a later point. I know the skills I have gained from my apprenticeship are going to be a huge help in my new role and allow me to succeed in completing the self study successfully.

What advice would you give to individuals wanting to join an apprenticeship programme, and what advice would you give to companies wanting to take on an apprentice?

Individuals: I think choosing an apprenticeship has been one of the best decision I could have made for my early career. Not only have I gained experience and a qualification, but also a salary and no debt. I think it has also been a great start to building my network, as I have met so many great people already and had the chance to make a positive impact in my work, which in fact helped me land my new role. Compared to other university graduates of my age I have also gained much more practical experience and will be much more appealing in the job market to employers. Can you name any other programmes that are offering 3-5 years of practical laboratory experience alongside a qualification without any prior experience or degrees?

Companies: I would highly recommend companies to take on apprentices, as they can bring so much to a company. First of all they are a huge opportunity for your staff to develop, not just for the junior managers who are looking gain managerial experience, but also to more senior employees who may want to mentor and pass on their learning to the new generation. I think they also bring a fresh energy to the company and can introduce new ideas or ways of thinking. Apprentices may also be less of a cost to the company compared to more traditional roles, and can be a great way to build upon loyalty and a better culture, all while receiving government support through the apprenticeship levy.

The programme itself also promotes business improvement and personal reflection, so can be conducive to improving processes or workflows. It's also worth saying that companies should take full advantage of their apprentices ability and not just assign them basic tasks, I would encourage to let them rotate through teams and learn from and add to each. It may be surprising what apprentices can achieve given their lack of experience!



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