May 21, 2021

My name is Tyler Mckeown, an apprentice at Sterling Pharma Solutions in Cramlington, Northumberland. I am currently in the last year of my apprenticeship journey.

Starting my apprenticeship journey

In 2015, after a year of studying for AS Levels, I decided that sixth form college wasn’t the right path for me. Not knowing my next move, I researched my career options, discovering apprenticeship schemes.

In secondary school, and full-time further education, the apprenticeship pathway was never promoted or advertised as an alternative to full-time sixth form or college. I was only vaguely familiar with the concept and never gave it a second thought previously. I accessed all the relevant information and apprenticeship opportunities via the GOV.UK website, and the idea to ‘earn while you learn’ really appealed to me. The structure and contents of an apprenticeship also better suited my personality and character.

I saw the Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship at Sterling Pharma Solutions advertised and decided to apply – a science/chemistry orientated apprenticeship and the nature of the role sounded exciting and interesting. I had also previously been impressed with Sterling, during a visit to the organisation on an industrial school trip. I was fortunate enough to be offered employment and my apprenticeship journey started in August 2015.

Level 3 Advanced Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship

Accepting my advanced apprenticeship, the first six months were spent conducting rotating secondments between Sterling’s three chemistry orientated departments (Quality Control, Analytical Development Group, Research and Development). Once the secondments were complete, it was concluded my permanent department would be Quality Control (QC).

Completing my Laboratory Technician apprenticeship, I was offered the chance to progress further at Sterling by advancing onto a Level 6 Degree Laboratory Scientist Apprenticeship.

Level 6 Degree Laboratory Scientist Apprenticeship

The Level 6 opened more development gateways. The number of challenges and responsibilities increased, as did expectations. My day-to-day functions advanced from basic technician functions to being an established member of the QC Chemical Analyst team.

I am now about three months away from completing my BSc Hons Degree in Analytical Chemistry after four years of part-time higher education study. I am also preparing for my end point assessment (EPA) to complete my degree level apprenticeship.

As a result of my hard work, I was entrusted with a number of high-profile customer projects, acting as a representative of my employer at numerous events. The most notable was when I was approached to represent Sterling on behalf of Thermo Fisher Scientific, a leading clinical research organisation, as a guest-note speaker at global pharmaceutical events in Switzerland and the USA.

My competence and familiarisation within the apprenticeship sector played a large role in being assigned as a mentor for one of the newly recruited level 3 Laboratory Technician apprentices, a role I take great pride in performing.

North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (YAAN)

I became familiar with the YAAN in the early stages of my degree level apprenticeship. Sterling is passionate about introducing apprentices into the YAAN, so I applied and was selected as a Young Apprenticeship Ambassador.

Attending the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (AAN) conferences opened my eyes to its amazing contributions and effort to promote and spread awareness of apprenticeships. This led to my increased involvement with YAAN/AAN events, including my attendance as a speaker at the North East National Apprenticeship Week 2019 networking event, sharing my experiences of an apprenticeship and the benefits it provides employers and apprentices.

To put the icing on the cake, I was approached by the executive board members of North East YAAN to join their team. As of February, I joined as ‘Projects Coordinator’.

National Apprenticeship Awards Success 2020

During October’s monthly AAN conference, I was asked by fellow ambassadors if I had applied for an award at the National Apprenticeship Awards, after some encouragement within the network, I decided to apply.

Fast-forward to November, and I was virtually collecting the ‘Royal Navy Regional Higher/Degree Apprentice of the Year’ Award 2020 and through to the national finals in my category! To be current regional champion and one out of nine national finalists was, and still is, an indescribable feeling. It’s always fulfilling and satisfying to know your contributions and hard work have been recognised, my success in the national apprenticeship awards has given me even more ambition, drive and confidence for the future!

NEPIC Awards Success 2021

I was overwhelmed when I was asked by colleagues at Sterling to apply for a NEPIC (North East Process Industry Cluster) award. The North East possesses an amazing variety of industrial organisations, with a high-quality pool of apprentices/candidates. Which is why it was extra special to be crowned ‘NEPIC Scientific Industry Apprentice of the Year 2021’. To win such a prestigious award gave me such a buzz. It fills you full of appreciation for those who have supported you, but also feel an enormous amount of pride and achievement.

Reflecting upon my apprenticeship journey

Being an apprentice has had a very positive effect on me. You could even say, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

My work ethic and philosophy are more dynamic and efficient, doing what is necessary to get the job done to the best of my ability. I have essential life skills via lessons learned during the apprenticeship, and I have both short and long-term goals I am working towards.

I believe current and future apprentices can learn from my experience, as most opportunities that I have encountered are available to all. It is a pleasure to be part of the rewarding Sterling apprenticeship programme. An apprenticeship offers the best of both worlds, the education and the vital work experience that is valued so highly by future employers. If the right apprenticeship opportunity is there for you, grab it with two hands and do not let go!


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