Olivia Waugh RSciTech, Laboratory Scientist Apprentice
Why did you decide to apply for an apprenticeship?
I finished my GCSE’s during Covid, leaving school in March 2020. After applying to complete A-Levels, I attended the first day but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. The time to reflect during covid, made me realise that I wanted to gain industry experience earlier and move away from the classroom. Fortunately, a role as a Laboratory Technician, became available at CPI, which is the same employer that I completed 5 days of work experience whilst at school.
Same as any other role, I followed the typical job application process, completed an interview via Zoom and started my role in October 2020. The role had laboratory technician responsibilities which I loved, and on top of this I completed Microbial Quality Control for projects.
How has your apprenticeship impacted your career path to date?
I completed my Level 3 Laboratory Technician apprenticeship in July 2022. From this I applied internally with CPI to move sites to become a Laboratory Scientist, undertaking a degree as part of this with Manchester Metropolitan. I’d always wanted to do the Laboratory Scientist apprenticeship and the completion of the Laboratory Technician apprenticeship enabled this progression.
The Laboratory Scientist apprenticeship is a Level 6 and runs for 5 years. 4 years to complete the degree, with an additional year to ensure I can prepare and pass the End Point Assessment. In my current role, the focus is now on Mammalian cell culture, running mammalian fermentations and supporting new, upcoming, and innovative projects everyday.
After completing my Laboratory Technician apprenticeship, I used my achievement to apply for and be awarded Registered Science Technician RSciTech with the Royal Society of Biology earlier in 2023.
My apprenticeship experience and achievement has also been recognised by being awarded ‘Apprentice of the Year 2021’ with the Northeast Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), and as ‘Apprentice of the Year 2022’ with the Royal Society of Biology, recognising the positive impact I have made in my role both as a scientist and a STEM Ambassador.
What skills or experiences do you value most from working as an apprentice?
The ability to complete the degree element of my Level 6 apprenticeship is valuable as I build skills for life as an Apprentice Scientist, and learn the theory behind this at university. I can attend live online lectures or watch them asynchronously at a time that works around my other commitments.
The university is conscious of engagement between apprentices, and so I attended the university for a few days in September and November and going forward I will have a week block of undertaking laboratory tasks with my peers. This is both daunting and rewarding as you make the change from college to university, but I love the travel element of my degree and the opportunities I’m presented with.
As the degree apprenticeship progresses, it will allow me to progress from initial shadowing, to supporting experiments, to a point where I will lead experiments, for which I am really looking forward to the challenge.
What would you say to young scientists who are currently in, or thinking about starting an apprenticeship?
Don’t worry about missing out on university experience. You can still get this whilst also gaining valuable experience of work by undertaking an apprenticeship. It saves you lots of study fees and you earn while your learn. By the end of my current apprenticeship I will have 7 years experience, a degree and two apprenticeships.
I’m a big advocate of apprenticeships, visiting schools to deliver STEM outreach activity and promote the opportunities of starting and building a career in science through apprenticeships.
What were the key motivations that led to you applying for professional registration?
After completing my Level 3 apprenticeship, gaining RSciTech recognition further promoted my accomplishment of completing my apprenticeship and being a qualified Laboratory Technician.
It allows me to use the post-nominals of RSciTech after my name, for my signature.
The professional recognition is also something else to add to your story and show the progression you are making in your career.
I intend to use the shortened application route to become a Registered Scientist RSci on completion of the Laboratory Scientist apprenticeship too. Another part that can contribute to my career story.
Royal Society of Biology Statement
Cara Froggatt MRSB – Senior Professional Development Officer
Olivia was the RSB Apprentice of the Year winner in 2022, and I’d like to offer congratulations to her for achieving RSciTech registration since then. It is great to see apprentices like Olivia delivering outreach and highlighting technical career pathways with such enthusiasm. I wish Olivia all the best in her Laboratory Scientist apprentice, and with her application to RSci
Employer – CPI
Liv has done a great job of managing the step up from her level 3 apprenticeship, exemplified by her top grades throughout her first semester at MMU. She has balanced this workload well; adapting to her new job requirements, quickly picking up technical skills in mammalian cell culture, transfections, bioreactor preparation and general site operations.
Liv has further demonstrated her enthusiasm for this career path by participating in extracurricular STEM ambassador work and is always keen to volunteer to assist with visiting placement students or tours at Biologics. I have no doubt that she will have a positive influence on future scientists as well as her own career.