Dr Katherine Barclay is Director, Academic Liaison at Pfizer UK. The company has worked with Kent on its apprenticeship scheme since 2016.

Why did you choose to work with Kent? 

Kent was one of the few universities able to offer the laboratory scientist apprenticeship with a chemical sciences pathway. Our apprentices do most of their learning online, and an advantage of working with Kent is that one of their tutors comes on site to support them. 

Tell me about your current Kent apprentices? 

Five of our apprentices are doing their training at Kent. They are all new staff – school leavers or fairly new to the industry. They are at Level 5 and, for the right candidates, there would be an opportunity to progress through to a Level 6 for a full degree qualification. The benefit of taking on a group of apprentices together is that they support each other. 

How does Pfizer help develop apprentices’ work behaviours? 

Work behaviours are an important part of apprenticeship standards and the workplace. So we link up with Toastmasters, an organisation which supports the development of public speaking and leadership skills, as there’s a group on site at Sandwich. We’ve also designed a week-long programme specifically for the apprentices with The Outward Bound Trust in the Lake District. It’s focused on team working and has helped them push themselves and take ownership of their apprenticeship. 

What benefits do apprentices bring to Pfizer? 

To have someone with a fresh perspective challenges the status quo and I think that’s what we need. They bring innovation and creativity to the business and help increase the diversity of our workforce. Apprenticeships help to attract a different type of candidate; someone who is highly talented but has chosen not to take the traditional academic route into science. Apprentices can also challenge us to keep up to date with things like the latest communications technology. It’s also good mentoring and line management experience for existing staff. 

Do you consider apprentices for employment after their apprenticeship finishes? 

If there’s a permanent vacancy then the apprentice would be eligible to apply for it. 

What do apprentices get out of the scheme?

Apprentices get a good knowledge of the business, and what roles they could go into. Pfizer’s a huge global organisation and the apprentices interact with so many parts of it. They can shadow people and develop a really extensive professional network. 

What would you say to an employer considering employing apprentices?

 Apprentices bring a lot to an organisation – creativity, innovation, and different ways of thinking. It takes effort on the part of the employer and the apprentice but it’s definitely worthwhile.  

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