Alix Bennison RSci, Quality Assurance Associate
Why did you decide to apply for an apprenticeship?
During my A Levels at school, I was primarily encouraged to progress to university, but this is something that didn’t appeal to me. As my Sixth Form was local to AstraZeneca, company representatives attended to promote their apprenticeship programme. The programmes advertised were new 3-year degree apprenticeship programmes that included a Level 5 and Level 6 Laboratory Scientist apprenticeship.
Although I hadn’t selected core science in any of my A Level selections, the role required skills in applying science with a different perspective, that allowed me to demonstrate how my skills could translate well to this.
My application required an interview focused on my personal experience and how this linked to AstraZeneca values. It also included an interview on my practical experience. For this I prepared by researching the goals of AstraZeneca and the Macclesfield site for which the role was based. This preparation supported me in securing an apprenticeship.
How has your apprenticeship impacted your career path to date?
It provided to me a 3-year programme that rotated areas on an annual basis, providing experience of work in different teams but always within the context of quality assurance. This meant that I could learn about different areas, processes and build a diverse range of experience for my CV.
This broad knowledge of how the organisation and specific areas operate, allowed me at the end of the apprenticeship, to apply for a Quality Assurance Associate role and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of system knowledge and how areas interconnect so to get from A to B to C, applying good quality advice at all times. This secured my role for which I am still in post.
The apprenticeship developed a range of skills for both my learning & career development that keeps doors open for future prospects too. With my line manager, I have planned and started to attended Quality Person training days, which is detailed within my Individual Development Plan to ensure implementation and matches that of my ambition to qualify and be awarded QP – Qualified Person.
Science Council Note – A Qualified Person (QP) is responsible for assuring the quality of medicines.
What skills or experiences did you value most from working as an apprentice?
The apprenticeship scheme was well structured and built in collaboration with apprentices. We were the first on this new scheme and AstraZeneca were proactive and responsive to the opinions that we shared. This has helped shape the future direction and approach of the apprenticeship programme for future apprentices too.
We were encouraged to be part of the STEM Outreach, through which I attended schools around the Manchester area, to promote to students the prospects of working in STEM and creating a strong career through accessing apprenticeships. This activity focused on wider apprenticeship opportunities too, not just science disciplined apprenticeships, in areas such as manufacturing and business skills.
The apprenticeship has required me to balance work, life and study, which in its own right has developed skills transferable to my continued progression. I was able to ensure that (through the support of my employer) I dedicated time to study. This requires strong organisation, which if planned well, ensures a healthy balance of work and life. I worked hard during the week but was still able to have a break at weekends in most cases.
What would you say to young scientists who are currently in, or thinking about starting an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships can offer vast experience and qualifications that creates steps to build a strong career, leading to specialist roles and senior posts. You can build a very successful career without going to university – apprenticeships offer another strong route from entry through to progression.
When selecting an apprenticeship, research the organisation. Are their goals and ambitions in alignment with what you want to do, and could you imagine working there? Do their values resonate with yours? Approach the organisation to speak to those internally to find out more about the organisation and the role of the apprenticeship.
By knowing more about the organisational goals, it can inform you on whether this fits into your long-term ambitions. For example, the 2030 goals set today will be led by senior staff, many of whom may be apprentices today. Apprenticeships are the talent pool for the future growth and contribute to the performance and impact of the business.
As an apprentice, you are the future of the company. It’s worth remembering that as an apprentice you are on a development programme, with access to support and mentoring, provided by line management and experienced colleagues too. This mentoring can bring real value. Apprenticeships are a type of mentorship, so ask questions as no question is silly. Also feel comfortable to challenge as you bring a new and fresh perspective to the work and can contribute well to the continuous process improvements.
What were the key motivations that led to you applying for professional registration?
Professional registration forms a key part of my planned personal and career development. My next ambition is to qualify as a QP (Qualified Person), for which there is a requirement for me to be registered with a professional body. This ambition has allowed me to have the focus to be awarded Registered Scientist RSci as part of the progression to that next step, forming an incremental achievement.
By becoming professionally registered, it broadens my future growth potential. The shortened application route has allowed me to use my apprenticeship achievement to demonstrate my commitment to excellence both in my work and with my approach to continuous professional development too.
How did you find the process of applying for Registered Scientist using the shortened application route?
It was really streamlined and straightforward. The questions posed within the application helped me respond by using examples from the apprenticeships. It essentially offers a process to reflect and talk about what I’ve done during my apprenticeship and how it has benefited me in terms of my career ambition.
The process has allowed me to connect what I have done during the apprenticeship, to what I intend to do in the future.
Royal Society of Biology Statement
Cara Froggatt MRSB, Senior Professional Development Officer
“The Royal Society of Biology are delighted to welcome Alix to our community of Registered Scientists. It is fantastic that Alix has learnt so much from her apprenticeship and has used it to develop valuable outreach skills and future career goals as well. It is inspiring to consider how apprentices like Alix will shape the future of science, research and organisations. Best of luck to Alix in her next step, and I look forward to hearing how you progress.”
Employer – AstraZeneca
For more information on apprenticeships with AstraZeneca, please read the case study featured during 2023 National Apprenticeship Week.