Eleana Woods, Laboratory Technician Apprentice – Queen Mary University of London

Eleana Woods, Laboratory Technician Apprentice – Queen Mary University of London


The Science Council interviewed Nadia Rahman CSci (Histopathology Laboratory Manager) and Eleana Woods (Laboratory Technician Apprentice) to find out more about the apprenticeship created at Queen Mary University of London and how the apprenticeship is helping to develop the workforce skill needs of the team.

Queen Mary University of London is an Employer Champion with the Science Council.  Nadia Rahman CSci identified apprenticeships as a way to address and deliver a skills solution.  In this interview we found out more about the factors Nadia considered when creating this apprenticeship and the experiences of Eleana at the early stages of the apprenticeship journey.

Professional Registration – The apprenticeship ‘Laboratory Technician’ will offer Eleana the opportunity to apply for Registered Science Technician RSciTech on completion of the apprenticeship, using a shortened application route.

(From Left to Right – Eleana Woods and Nadia Rahman CSci)


What were the drivers that encouraged you to invest and employ an apprentice?

Nadia – At the time I was pushing for a junior member of staff, but it was difficult to recruit as many of the applicants couldn’t work in a laboratory or in many cases held qualifications that didn’t align to the role.  We needed a solution where, from beginning to finish, we could support a new staff member in developing their applicable knowledge and competence of the procedures within the laboratory, with practical skills that met and complemented the team.


How and where did you find the apprenticeship advertisement?

Eleana – I’d just finished my A Levels, all being science focused.  I didn’t feel ready for university but knew that science was a subject I really enjoyed.  When searching on the internet I came across the role and thought it could be a good fit.  My friend was also attending Queen Mary University, so I decided that it would be good to apply.


How was the recruitment process?

Nadia – We received lots of applications, but what stood Eleana apart was the clear love for science and keenness to working in a Laboratory. We wanted to find someone who had a passion for science, wanted to be hands on and discover things.  Working in a laboratory can be fun and rewarding and we wanted someone who could enjoy that journey of exploration.

The main challenge I experienced in creating the apprenticeship role was that apprenticeships hadn’t been utilised within the campus, so it required research with other departments, including HR, to ask questions and learn together on how to create the placement.  There was no template in place, but now that we have found the answers through the experience of creating this apprenticeship with Eleana, we are now in a much stronger position to recruit apprentices in the future.


How was the start of the apprenticeship?

Eleana – When I first started, I was nervous as I hadn’t worked in a laboratory and was worried that I may break something, but very quickly I felt at home with a friendly team who built my confidence in using the equipment and lots of mentoring and support too.  In particular, I am able to ask questions and get guidance from both Nadia and Bobby, an experienced technician within the team.


How does the off-the-learning work for the apprenticeship?

Nadia – when we started the apprenticeship, I attended Kingston College to find out more about how they planned the provision.  I was particularly impressed by the structure of the programme and their support for wider personal and professional development.  The college engages well with us, so that the theory Eleana learns is not detached from the place of work, meaning we can support in contextualising the content.  We also meet regularly for reviews of progress.

Eleana – I attend the college once every two weeks which is great as I can share work with other apprentices and get their thoughts and perspectives of things we are covering.  We are set work to complete between the days of college attendance.  I’m confident in self-directing my learning as I organise my time to complete tasks and maintain a healthy work, life and study balance, always trying to ensure I have two days during the week away from work and study.  I’m also able to connect with other apprentices in different departments at the University too.

I know what I need to do and achieve – I’m already aware of the end point assessment and what I will need to develop, present and be tested on to complete the apprenticeship.


How can apprenticeships work for the future?

Nadia – I would like to see apprenticeships becoming part of the normal recruitment process and part of the whole workforce system.  Using apprenticeships to meet skill needs within the teams can form a well-oiled recruitment process.

Employers and managers may be concerned about recruiting an apprentice, with the perceived barrier around the level of mentoring and time needed to support an apprentice.  My experience though, is that if you find the right individual, who has that love for science, they may not have experience, but through the enjoyment of being at work and a meaningful role, they will quickly learn and become a functioning and supportive member of the workforce due to the consistent support received.  It’s a whole team effort that can then ensure the apprentice learns fast and effectively, with the apprentice feeling comfortable to ask questions along the way.


What are the aspects of the apprenticeship you find most enjoyable and most challenging?

Eleana – I have really enjoyed building a portfolio for histology and the research required to do this.  My colleague Bobby guiding me through the process.  It will be a really helpful resource to be able to refer to throughout my career.  I feel 100% part of the team and enjoy the social aspect of the role being part of a small team.  I suppose the most challenging aspect I experience is in being able to say what I will do after the apprenticeship.


What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?

Eleana – I started in summer 2023 as part of a two-year programme, so as to what I will do after this I don’t yet know, but I do hope that it fits within the sciences.