Welcome back to our STEM apprenticeships series to celebrate National Apprenticeships week 2021. Today we are so pleased to be sharing an interview with the Royal Society of Chemistry.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is the name used for a collection of industries and sectors. Healthcare, engineering, Aerospace, Dentistry, Computer Science, Website development, Forensic Science and many more fall into the STEM sector. To be successful in any number of these industries, you need to combine scientific or technological knowledge and practical skills and experience, which is why an apprenticeship can be such a great step in a STEM career. An apprenticeship ensures you have the opportunity and structure to gain practical experience, whilst learning on the job.
The Royal Society of Chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry is the UK’s professional body for chemical scientists supporting and representing over 50,000 members in 125 countries. They set and maintain professional standards as well as investing in educating future generations of scientists. They work closely with industry and academia, promoting collaboration and innovation. They advise government on policy and promote the talent, information and ideas that lead to great advances in science. They work to shape the future of chemical science for the benefit of science and humanity.
Employing an Apprentice and the Royal Society of Chemistry share the goal of improving science education for young people and removing any barriers to education and meaningful careers. They have so many valuable and creative resources for young people interested in a career in chemistry.
We are so grateful to have been able to talk to Lakshmi Hughes from the Royal Society of Chemistry about apprenticeships in STEM. She told us a bit about her work with RSC, the advantages of doing an apprenticeship in STEM, and why they are great for those who love chemistry. We hope you enjoy our conversation below:
A chat with Lakshmi Hughes, Manager of RSC Careers team
Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about what you do at the Royal Society of Chemistry?
“I manage the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Career Management team. Our team offer advice and information to chemical scientists at every stage of their career from those starting out to those approaching retirement.”
“We publish engaging online content to help young people understand the value of a career in chemical science and the routes into one. We work with our community to identify and achieve their career goals through one-to-one consultations and other services, such as our award-winning mentoring programme. We also speak at conferences and provide online career information which covers sector, skills and employment news to make evidenced-based career decisions.”
We saw that you recently won the Best Website award at the International & European Association Awards 2020 for your site A Future in Chemistry, congratulations!
Can you tell us more about this site and how some of our students might use it?
“Yes, we were very proud to win an award for our careers website, A Future in Chemistry. Designed for under 18s, it features dozens of profiles of real-life chemical scientists, including apprentices, who explain what they do and why they chose chemistry. It is a rich content site which has practical advice on the benefits of studying chemistry and the many options it opens whether you take it further or not.”
“I would recommend looking at the Study and Career option sections, particularly Earn While You Learn , where you can find out more about apprenticeships, how to apply and what to look out for. And you can hear more about what it’s like from current apprentices working in the water, pharmaceutical and energy sectors.”
So, why do you think apprenticeships are a good route into STEM and chemistry?
“Apprenticeships are a great route into chemistry as you are getting experience of working in a chemical industry and practising the actual skills that chemistry employers look for. You will gain access to a company or a sector of chemistry, and if you do a really good job and become a respected member of the team it will put you in a strong position when there are permanent job opportunities.”
“You are likely to work alongside experienced chemistry professionals where you can observe and practice the techniques and skills they use. You will naturally meet lots of people across the organisation which puts you in a good place to build professional relationships and networks to succeed in the role and your future career ambitions.”
That sounds really great. Traditionally people accessed a career in chemistry through university, so what are the advantages of apprenticeships vs a university route?
“There are many advantages of doing an apprenticeship rather than going to university fulltime. The three that stand out for me are:
- You avoid student loans. Many who go to university come out with a significant amount of debt. As an apprentice, your employer pays for your training and also pays you a salary. Depending on the type of apprenticeship you opt for, you may come out of it with a qualification, such as a diploma or a degree, without the debt.
- You will have practical technical skills valued by employers. Many apprenticeships, and therefore the skills, knowledge and behaviours that you learn, have been designed in conjunction with employers so they are what employers want and value and could give you the advantage when applying for jobs in the future.
- You will learn professional skills that are hard to develop as a fulltime student. As apprentices do real jobs in real work environments, you gain the softer skills that will help you throughout your career and make you more confident, such as team working, effective communication and problem-solving.The idea of getting out of the classroom may also appeal to you. And because there are different levels of apprenticeships and accompanying qualification you can build up your level to suit you and your ambitions. These include degree and masters level apprenticeships.”
And finally, is there anything else you would like to say to a young person interested in a career in chemistry?
“I would encourage any young person to go for a career in chemistry. There is still a perception that you need to be academic and go to university when actually there is a range of vocational, technical and academic routes into the profession, some of which allow you to earn while you train.”
“I would say stay focussed on your interest chemistry and find out more about how you could make a difference if you chose it as your career. I would also add that a chemistry qualification will make you highly employable , there are financial incentives, and it opens the door to a wide range of career options both in and out of the lab.”
Thank you so much to Lakshmi Hughes and the Royal Society of Chemistry for talking to us. If you want to find out more about their work and membership, visit their website. For STEM apprenticeship opportunities, visit our apprenticeship board.