HSL Online: Yusuf, please tell us a little about your background and why you applied for the HSL apprenticeship scheme.
YY: I’m 19 years old and have just finished my A-Levels in psychology, economics and maths. Most of my friends applied to university, but I was looking to do something a little different – something that would help me understand the working world a bit more. An apprenticeship seemed like the perfect fit.
I’ve always been interested in science, but wanted an apprenticeship that would help me develop skills in business too. HSL seemed to provide the right mix of practical laboratory experience within a more corporate environment.
HSL Online: How have you found the apprenticeship scheme so far?
YY: I’ve only been here a few weeks, but I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve started in flow cytometry, but will rotate around different departments in the coming months, including immunology, chemistry and haematology.
I like that it’s really hands-on – I’m treated like any other member of staff. I come in and get straight on with work, preparing and analysing samples, learning new techniques and using different pieces of equipment. Every day I’m learning something new, which keeps the job interesting and exciting.
The best thing about working at HSL? The people. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. As my first proper job, I was little apprehensive about what to expect and how I’d get on. But I feel like I’ve settled in really well – all the staff have been very reassuring and helpful.
HSL Online: What has been your biggest challenge?
YY: For me, the biggest challenge has been dealing with the sense of responsibility that comes from knowing you are working with real samples from real people – I really don’t want to make any mistakes! The staff, however, have all been really understanding and have taken the time to support me with my training, which has helped boost my confidence.
HSL Online: Where do you see yourself in the future?
YY: I would like to go to university at some point, but based on how this apprenticeship has gone so far, I can really see myself staying at HSL for the foreseeable future. I would definitely recommend this scheme to anyone who is not sure what they want to do, but would like some hands-on, practical experience in the working world.
HSL Online: Naina, please tell us a little more about the apprenticeship scheme.
NC: The apprenticeship scheme allows us to train and retain top talent, which is really important to us. Over the past few years we have found increasing numbers of biomedical scientists apply for medical laboratory assistant (MLA) roles, only to leave within six months. Our apprentices, however, will finish their training as fully qualified MLAs, with a job waiting for them at HSL.
An advantage of this programme is the scope for flexibility. If our apprentices are interested in moving to a non-laboratory based department in the future, such as IT or HR, then we can arrange placements in these areas. If they want to progress beyond MLA level, and become an associate practitioner, for example, then there are opportunities to do so.
We try to provide as much variety as possible during the apprenticeship, to keep training interesting, enjoyable and of a high standard. Yusuf, for example, will move across the entire floor this next year, learning everything there is to know about each department.
We want apprentices to enjoy their time here, but we also take our training seriously. We give apprentices all the practical knowledge, skills and experience they need to become highly proficient MLAs. Regular training logs and competency tests ensure they can undertake all essential laboratory skills to an appropriate standard, giving them the best start to a career in healthcare science.
HSL Online: Why is it so important that HSL invests in apprenticeships?
NC: The whole ethos behind this scheme is the understanding that young people don’t necessarily need a degree to build a successful career in science. There are plenty of intelligent, motivated young adults who may not want to go down the academic route, but nevertheless want to work in this field. An apprenticeship at HSL gives them the chance to find out what it is like to work in a laboratory, to gain valuable experience, and to come out the other side a fully qualified MLA. This is why apprenticeships are so important – to make HSL, and science more generally, inclusive for all.