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The Importance of Apprenticeships

The Importance of Apprenticeships

The Modern Apprenticeship Service combines practical training in work with study, leading to industry recognised qualifications up to degree level. Working as an apprentice gives people the chance to earn a real wage, while being trained in the skills that employers want. Employers also benefit from the arrangement, as depending on the size of the company they can get government support for up to 95% of the cost of training


Pharmig launched its annual ‘Microbiology Apprentice of the Year’ award in 2020 in order to recognise the contribution made by apprentices to our industries and to encourage more companies to employ them.  This year the award has gone to Ben Pickard at AstraZeneca.


Ben was nominated by his colleagues who felt he demonstrated the following qualities:

  • 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



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 building electronic processes to manage samples and new pieces of equipment. During the pandemic, resources were 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 was the first apprentice to be recruited into the Pharmaceutical Technology and Development (PT&D) Microbiology Team.  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 to use Ben for sample management and to shadow senior scientists but it soon became clear that he had the capability to perform the responsible microbiologist role for several development projects and paediatric formulations in his final year.



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

  • Led the installation and evaluation of two online water bioburden analysers on a purified water system on site.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 take the OWBA instrument further and continue to share his data and experience; a true credit to Pharmig and deserving Apprentice of the Year.


Nominations for Apprentice of the Year next year will re-open in January 2022. If you already have someone in mind, get in touch with Pharmig who will send you additional information and a nomination form –