The Laboratory Technician and Maintenance Apprenticeship Schemes are up and running, with apprentices in Estates, Bioengineering and Chemistry.
Building on previous apprenticeships within Estates, the new four-year Maintenance Apprenticeship Scheme supports apprentices to develop skills and knowledge in many areas including health and safety, heating systems, electrical systems and ventilation. During their training the apprentices maintain buildings across the College’s estate.
The Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship Scheme trains apprentices in laboratory techniques such as calibration and chromatography. Over 28 months they learn to work safely in a laboratory supporting research and teaching.
Tim Venables, Institutional Lead for the Technician Commitment, said: “I’m delighted that we are taking the time during National Apprenticeships Week to celebrate Imperial’s two new technical apprenticeship schemes, which complement our established apprenticeship pathways in Electronic and Mechanical Engineering. I’ve seen the quality of our current and previous apprentices and how much they bring to the departments that they work in. As well as offering talented individuals high-quality training and a new route into their chosen profession, they also help to ensure that College staff have the skills we need for the present and the future.”
Two of Imperial’s new apprentices tell us about their experiences.
Panashe Mwenye – Maintenance Apprentice
What was your route to Imperial?
I feel like I’ve come full circle to get here. I first looked at apprenticeships when I was 17. I applied to Imperial, but I wasn’t successful, so I ended up going to university instead. I left the course as I wasn’t being supported for dyslexia and I didn’t believe it was for me anymore. I decided to work until I could figure out what I wanted to do, but when COVID-19 hit I had a lot of issues pertaining to my physical and mental health.
I found myself really enjoying repairing and working on motorbikes so I applied to the engineering apprenticeship again. But when I was interviewed they said that the maintenance apprenticeship would be a better fit for me. And here I am.
What do you enjoy about being an apprentice?
The great thing is that it is very hands on. You physically learn how to do things – someone shows you and talks you through it and you learn that way. An interactive way of learning resonates with me. Now I’m in my element and other skills that I have are coming to light such as problem solving. I’ve also been getting lots of support with my dyslexia.
I am trying to build up to be the be the best version of myself and an apprenticeship Is a great way to keep learning. I used the steel pipe bending skills I had learnt at college to make a steel pipe insulation for a light fitting in one of our plant room corridors.
What is your day-to-day like?
Every day is different and it depends on what defects come up what I’ll be working on. If there’s something particular that I need to do for my college portfolio my manager gives me those jobs. Some jobs might take us a couple of days, but others are quite quick.
I get to work with so many people who are willing to share their knowledge with me. No one has told me to stop asking questions – yet! They are teaching me new skills and the whole point is that at some point I can be trusted to do the job myself. My manager showed me how to replace a light fitting and I did it myself the other day which made me very proud. I don’t feel like I am working when I am here, time just flies by.
What do you like about Imperial?
I really appreciate the fact that Imperial is big on diversity. My manager is Black and it is very good for me to see that Imperial gives people of all colours and creeds opportunities. Walking around the campus is like taking a walk around the world.
The advanced systems we have at Imperial mean I’m able to work on things that I wouldn’t see in a commercial environment. I’ve also been able to access further learning - I have a presentation skills course coming up soon. Imperial is a fantastic place to better yourself as a person and as an employee.
Adriana Lobosco – Laboratory Technician Apprentice
Why did you choose an Imperial apprenticeship?
Science has always been my passion and I knew that I wanted a job in science, but I didn’t want to go to university. I was working in the food industry but I didn’t enjoy it so I was also searching for science-based jobs. When I came across the Imperial apprenticeship advert I couldn’t believe that there was a job that I could apply for in the field I wanted to be in. I love learning, so that fact that it was an apprenticeship and I could learn at the same time as working was amazing.
What was the application process like?
After the application I had a virtual interview, then an in-person interview. I also did a skills test to show that I could follow instructions and do calculations. I was really nervous but everyone was very nice. I got a job offer the following day.
How have you found the first four months?
I absolutely love being here. I’m doing something that I didn’t think would be possible, especially at my age. The Department of Bioengineering is such a diverse team and I get to work on lots of different things. There are lots of technicians to learn from and they all have specialisms. At the moment I’m learning the basics such as tissue culture and microscopy, but the plan is that I will shadow them all.
What does your day look like?
I like to have a bit of structure so I discuss with my manager what I might be doing. It doesn’t always go like that though, especially if we have to troubleshoot when an experiment goes wrong.
I’m primarily based in White City, but I also go to South Kensington to help in the teaching labs. I assist with the lab set-up and problem solve and assist with student questions.
Halfway through my apprenticeship I will swap to work in the Department of Chemistry.
Have you learnt or been able to do anything that has surprised you?
Before I got this job I wasn’t very confident presenting to groups of people, but my confidence has increased massively and now I’m much more confident doing things like that. I’m starting to train PhD students and even staff on how to use and maintain specific lab equipment. It’s a bit scary but I’m really enjoying it.
Image credits: James Tye
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