For National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week (6 – 12 March), Kate Barclay from Pfizer is putting the spotlight on apprenticeships as the next step in your career.
Deciding your future can be a daunting task, especially when you're 16 to 18 years of age. For some, it's about deciding whether to go into full time employment or take on a degree at university but, increasingly, apprenticeships are becoming a popular choice.
I personally am a strong advocate for apprenticeships. They are a great opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into an industry, and the practical experience of working in an organisation is invaluable early in your career. By taking on a role as an apprentice, you will get to develop technical skills, expand your knowledge of an industry, and develop professional ways of working.
In the pharmaceutical industry, companies are increasing the number of apprenticeships on offer across the UK. A recent ABPI report, Developing talent and partnerships to create new medicines, showed that the number of apprenticeships in our industry had more than doubled in 2015 across all areas and at all levels.
It's true – by becoming an apprentice you're in the working world so you won't get the long holidays that your university friends might. On the upside, not only do you not have tuition fees to pay, you get a salary! On top of that, many apprentices gain industry leading qualifications alongside building professional networks and relationships. 70% of apprenticeships offered by pharmaceutical companies are advanced-level (level 3) apprenticeships, which is equivalent to two A-levels. However, over a quarter are high-level (level 4+) with some working towards foundation and honours degrees from within a company.
But what are companies looking for in an apprentice? We want to see enthusiastic, dedicated individuals who are eager to learn and willing to work hard and become as passionate about our industry as we are. Whatever your interest, chances are there is an apprenticeship opportunity to suit you. In pharmaceutical companies, 10% of apprenticeships were in research and development, 31% in medicine manufacturing, and the remainder across engineering, IT, design, finance, administration, marketing and more.
Apprenticeships with companies can vary in duration, with most offering 3 to 4 years. From there, there's no typical career path, you can make anything out of it that you want. If you are willing to work hard and continuously improve, there is no limit to the career options an apprentice can pursue. There are many senior leaders in pharmaceutical companies who began their careers as an apprentice.
If you're interested in finding out more about how an apprenticeship might be right for you, most pharmaceutical companies have information on the apprenticeships on offer on their websites. You should also look at the vacancies advertised on the Government website, Cogent Skills website, and Not Going To Uni website.