Biomedical Science Apprentices at Salford and the National apprenticeship week award 

By Dr Lucy Smyth

The government apprenticeship scheme launched in 2017 enables staff to become upskilled via 20% off the job study, while maintaining their full-time salary. This of course benefits the staff concerned but also their employers that are supporting the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of their team and developing a more skilled workforce.  The partnership between universities and employers are powerful enablers for collaboration and generating new opportunities.  Apprenticeships ensure that students are presented new challenges in the workplace as an integrated part of their study.  

The University of Salford strongly supports apprentices raising their profile in the scientific community during their learning.  One such opportunity is during the annual ‘National Apprenticeship Week (8th-14th February 2021), where high-flying apprentices are nominated for the ‘Apprentice of the Year Award’ within each school.   For the School of Science, Environment and Engineering this award went to Christine Egerton who recently completed her integrated Biomedical Science degree.  Here’s her story. 

Christine recently completed her final (3rd) year of her apprenticeship combining her study with a full-time time role based in Manchester Foundation Trust pathology labs specialising in Biochemistry and Genetic Medicine.   

Dr. Lucy Smyth, nominated Christine with wholehearted support of the apprentice academic team. Dr Smyth said: “Since joining the Biomedical Science programme, Christine has diligently immersed herself into the academic work, gaining superb marks in many of her 2nd year and final year modules. Apprentices have not had an easy journey through the pandemic. Shining through the adversity means Christine can now register with the Health Care and Professions Council, progress her career and perform the role of a fully registered biomedical scientist. Well respected by peers and staff, we feel Christine has truly deserved the award of Apprentice of the Year.” 

Dr Smyth added: “Christine’s diligent attitude in working as an apprentice through the pandemic displays her professionalism and quiet resilience, which alongside an impressive performance in the degree’s End Point Assessment shows her merit in earning the title of Apprentice of the Year. Congratulations Christine.” 

Christine’s employer (Willink Laboratory, Genomic Medicine at the Manchester Royal Infirmary), Robert Gibson, said: “Christine is a model employee. She has put a lot of hard work and effort into becoming a Biomedical Scientist. She has also had to manage her time very effectively to ensure all deadlines and objectives have been meet. Christine is an asset to the laboratory, and I am certain she will make a great success of her career as a Biomedical Scientist.” 

About the opportunities and experience of the programme Christine (pictured) said: 

“My career progression had come to a standstill due to not having a Biomedical Science degree. The apprenticeship opened up the opportunity for me to be able to study for my degree while also being able to continue to work. Salford was the most appealing as the scheme was already up and running. This meant my attendance was only required one day a week, which was a set day, during term time to attend practical sessions on campus. The advantage of this was that it enabled my employer to easily plan for my absence. The apprenticeship at Salford appeared to offer me the best opportunity to equip me with the knowledge and learning to successfully complete my degree. 

“During my (workplace-based) final year project, I developed an alternative method for the diagnosis of Gaucher disease. The laboratory currently performs a lysosomal enzyme screen that consists of 16 enzymes being tested on a 5ml EDTA blood sample; Gaucher disease is currently tested in this screen but the method used requires a large volume of sample to perform the analysis.  The method I developed requires less sample volume, which enables more enzymes to be added to the screen without the patient needing to provide more sample. 

“I think that studying as an apprentice during the pandemic has taught me to consider different ways of approaching challenges.    

“My ambition is to secure a job as a HCPC-registered Biomedical Scientist within the NHS. My workplace-based learning linked with my degree has given me first-hand experience of what is required to be a Biomedical Scientist, and I feel that I’ve gained the confidence and knowledge to continue to develop and progress my skills. I have a real sense of achievement having completed the degree and I believe it has equipped me with the tools to carve out a good career within the field.” 

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