My life as an apprentice: John Chalcraft

17 Jul, 2018

HSL now has five apprentices working across the organisation; four based in the Halo and one in 60 Whitfield Street.

All our apprentices are training to be medical laboratory assistants (MLAs), working in this role while studying for an externally recognised qualification in Business Administration from Kingsway Westminster College.

John Chalcraft works alongside Yusuf Yusuf, HSL’s first apprentice, in Manual Blood Sciences on level 2 of the Halo. Three months in, we speak to John to find out how his apprenticeship is going so far.

Tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to become an apprentice.

I’m 24 year old, and before I started this apprenticeship I had a variety of different jobs: I worked in a supermarket, a nightclub and, most recently, as a bar manager. Joining HSL has been a completely new experience for me!

I decided to do an apprenticeship because I wanted to find a career, not just a job. It’s very tough in the job market nowadays, especially if you don’t have a degree or relevant work experience. But becoming an apprentice is an opportunity to earn while you learn – with the added bonus of having a guaranteed role at the end of it.

What stood out to you about HSL?

I found out about the HSL apprenticeship on the Kingsway Westminster College website. It stood out to me from the other apprenticeship schemes because it was so different – it wasn’t your standard office administration job. I wanted to learn something totally new and it seemed like a good fit.

In school I enjoyed science, especially the practical side, so it’s great to be getting some practical experience in the lab here at HSL. Although there’s an administration side to my role – I enter patient details and distribute samples to the right benches, for example – I also get to help out with some of the lab processes, which is good fun and very different from what I’ve done in the past.

What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship so far?

Working at HSL is really interesting and eye-opening. Before I started here I didn’t really think about what happens to blood samples, so I’ve enjoyed learning about that side of HSL’s work. It’s amazing to see just how many people are involved in the analysis of one sample, and it’s great to be a part of the team.

I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know the people at HSL. Everyone has been very welcoming, and I haven’t been made to feel any different for not having a scientific background. There are always people around to answer any questions and everyone is more than happy to help.

Has anything been particularly challenging?

Starting my apprenticeship was a little daunting – learning all the names of the tests was basically like having to learn a foreign language! I quickly got used to it though, and everyone was always willing to help me if I had any questions.

My manager has also been running weekly training sessions which have been incredibly useful. She gives us some scientific background to the tests we’re doing and why we’re doing them. The training has helped me understand what we do on level 2 and why it’s so important, which makes me enjoy my work even more.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m looking forward to continuing my training over the next year and becoming a fully qualified MLA. There are lots of different processes happening on level 2 so I’m excited to move around the floor and learn new techniques. Next week I’m moving to the chemistry section for 6 weeks to learn all the processes over there.

Long-term I hope to stay with HSL as I enjoy my work and really like the people.

What advice would you give anyone thinking of joining the HSL apprenticeship scheme?

Don’t be put off by not having a particularly scientific background; don’t be afraid to ask questions; and remember to take full advantage of the training programme – it’s really good!

HSL is a progressive partnership between The Doctors Laboratory, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (the Royal Free London) and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH)

Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories