2015 saw the number of apprenticeships being undertaken within the UK pharmaceutical industry more than double. Apprenticeships are available for people older than 16 and normally last 2-3 years. They include on-the-job training, as well as attending college, university or training centres part-time to gain a qualification, so you can earn while you learn.
There are many different apprenticeships available, including the following which have been developed specifically for life science and industrial science companies.
A number of other apprenticeships in areas such as regulatory affairs and quality assurance are under development.
Modern Apprenticeships in Life Sciences at levels 2 and 3, and a higher level Technical Apprenticeships are available in Scotland. More information can be found at the Skills Development Scotland website.
All approved apprenticeships lead to a recognised qualification, such as a BTEC or Higher National, and some apprenticeships provide the opportunity to study part time for a Foundation or Honours degree.
The type of qualification depends on the level of the apprenticeship:
As you will carry out your apprenticeship within a particular company you will learn the exact skills that your employer wants you to have, and this may well lead to long-term employment with them.
Either way, the qualifications that you get from your apprenticeship will give you evidence on paper of the skills you have learnt, making you more employable in the future.
Even if you don’t do your apprenticeship in a pharmaceutical company, the skills and qualifications you gain through an apprenticeship elsewhere, such as in the NHS, may well help you to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry in the future.
During your apprenticeship you should be treated as a full employee. You will earn at least the national minimum wage for apprentices, which is £3.40 per hour for people aged under 18, rising to £6.95/hour for those agreed 21 and over, as of October 2016. Although this may not sound much, remember your training will be paid for by your employer which is worth a lot!
Apprenticeships are advertised locally, online and on individual company websites.
Some apprenticeship vacancies for the pharmaceutical sector are advertised on the Cogent skills website.
Information on which companies offer apprenticeships can be found by searching the Pharmaceutical Recruiters section of the website.
For more information and alternative sources of vacancies have a look at the following websites:
Taking on an apprentice is a big investment for a company and there’s a lot of competition for places. Employers are going to want to make sure you’re the right person for the job, so be prepared to submit a CV, fill in an application form and attend an interview as you would for any other job.
For further advice on these see the Applying for a job pages.
Encouragingly, more pharmaceutical companies than ever are taking on apprentices. A recent ABPI survey found that more than twice as many surveyed companies reported having apprentices in 2015 than in 2013. 70% of these are level 3 (advanced) apprenticeships, but over a quarter are level 4+ (higher) and may involve working towards a degree. These figures are expected to increase in the coming years.
To find out more about being an apprentice in the industry have a look at the following case studies: