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Routes into microbiology – how apprenticeships help

An apprenticeship in the biosciences can be a valuable way for young people in our industry to get the opportunity to work in microbiology. At Pharmig we recognise the importance of supporting youngsters whilst they train and enjoy the opportunity to enter the world of microbiology. Our apprentice of the year award is now in its third year and we wanted to shout about how important this award is fin our community.


Why we reward apprenticeships

At Pharmig we feel that it is critical to nurture young talent who are making an important contribution in the pharmaceutical microbiology industry. When we reward individuals who strive to make the difference, it raises the standards for all of us in the healthcare industry. An annual award creates a culture where we both recognise and support our people. The apprenticeship system allows us to develop young people providing a tangible reward system that recognises excellence.


Who can be nominated

A key benefit of the Pharmig apprentice of the year award is that it’s open to both members and non-members. This gives us a vital opportunity to grow our microbiology community and membership. The criteria for nomination is that the apprentice must have been working in a technical role for at least a year with a strong emphasis on microbiology but without restricting it to a  laboratory environment.

The judging panel will review the nominations using the following selection criteria when reviewing applications:

  • Professionalism – e.g., competency, accountability, communication, organisational skills
  • Contribution – e.g., role played in team and examples of collaboration
  • Achievement – e.g., outstanding skills and expertise in the role, examples of inspiring colleagues, innovation and creativity
  • Development – e.g., personal development and scientific curiosity


What are the qualities that help

Whilst the selection criteria for the judging panel have been outlined above and will need to be evidenced, this is really about looking at an individual who shows qualities that make them stand out from those others. The individuals that have won Apprentice of the Year in the past have brought additional skills to the role. These are the apprentices that go over and above their designated tasks. An Apprentice of the Year is someone who puts themselves forward for projects without being asked and takes the initiative in any element of microbiology which falls outside their standard remit. A microbiology apprentice who continually questions and shows a consistent desire to further themselves and their colleagues and sets a bar for other apprentices.


How you can support that nomination

To support the nomination the following information must be provided in an email to

  • A one page supporting statement addressing the selection criteria listed above
  • The nominee’s CV – a one-page summary of education and career
  • The names and contact details of two referees, including details of their relationship with the nominee and conflicts of interest (if any).

We look forward to revealing the recipient of this award after the closing date of Friday 3rd June 2022.


Make your nomination >>


The Importance of Apprenticeships


Apprentice of the Year 2021 winner

Benjamin Pickard – Astra Zeneca


Ben’s Professionalism

Ben sets an excellent example to other apprentices at AstraZeneca. He has met all college deadlines, has excellent attendance levels and works independently with minimal support. Ben asks many questions and has learnt a significant amount of microbiology in 3 years from his peers around him. He has brought his technology skills to the team and supported team members with building electronic process to manage samples and new pieces
of equipment through the tech evaluation process. The technology processes involve communication with suppliers, managing servicing and breakdown repairs and hosting people on site. During the pandemic, resource was limited due to isolation of staff so Ben offered his services as a validated testing technician to go into the QC team to support testing and release whilst also managing his work in development.


Ben’s Contribution

Stretch goals were set for Ben at the beginning of his apprenticeship. Ben was the first apprentice to be recruited into the Pharmaceutical Technology and Development (PT&D) Microbiology Team. For Ben’s first year he completed a 12-month secondment to the QC Microbiology Product Testing Team where he became trained & validated in all basic microbiology product testing techniques for sterile and non-sterile formulations. Initially the plan was, on moving to PT&D, to perform
the sample management and to shadow senior scientists on non-sterile projects in development. It soon became clear that Ben had the capability to perform the responsible microbiologist role for the oral solid dosage products and he took on this responsibility for several development projects and paediatric formulations in his final year.


Ben’s Achievement

Ben has far exceeded our expectations for our first apprentice. Some of his achievements are as follows;

  • Led the installation and evaluation of two on line water bioburden analysers on a purified water system on site. This was his also his final year University project.
  • Led and performed the technology evaluations of 3 automatic agar plate instruments for the Global AstraZeneca Network.
  • Presented at the Global AZ Microbiology Network Meeting.
  • Performed the responsible microbiologist role independently for non-sterile development projects which included radiolabelled IV studies.
  • Volunteered in several STEM events which involved taking science
    into the primary school setting
    and presenting to local sixth form colleges on apprenticeships
  • Supported the interview process for the AstraZeneca Apprenticeships.
  • Qualified COSHH assessor.
  • Presented at the PT&D Science Day with posters and talks.
  • Developed an electronic process and SOP for sample management.
  • Leads Deviations as part of a small team for PT&D.
  • Promoted to Associate Scientist in March 2021.
  • Science Industry Partnership Ambassador
  • Representative on the PT&D Postcard Board which is responsible for showcasing good science across the business.


Ben’s Development

Ben started with no experience in Pharmaceutical Microbiology after completing his A Levels. In 3 years, he has progressed from Lab apprentice, to the PT&D responsible microbiologist and recently secured a permanent role as an associate scientist. Ben hopes to continue building his experience and has recently started to work on sterile projects. He also hopes to take the OWBA instrument further continue to share his data and experience with the external OWBA network.