Published 09th February 2023
National Apprenticeship Week is here and with the theme for 2023 being ‘Skills for Life’ we couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to celebrate our incredible employees and reflect on our journey with apprenticeships over the last several years.
Our journey to apprenticeships isn’t new and undoubtedly stems from our CEO, Dianne Lee. Starting her career with Smith Kline & French over 30 years ago, Dianne experienced first-hand the invaluable experience that apprenticeships can offer, completing her Applied Biology degree from North East London Polytechnic (now University of East London) on day release. Reflecting on that experience, Dianne states:
‘I didn’t want to go to university as I had the opportunity for a junior research position following a summer vacation job. We were encouraged to go on day release, and I graduated age 23 with 5 years’ experience. That set me up nicely to move into regulatory affairs and I quickly realised that was my ideal career where I have been ever since.’
Kickstarting her career and gaining lifelong and transferable skills from her experience, Dianne founded DLRC in 2005 and after several years of supporting our employees through a range of internal and external training programmes, including MSc in Regulatory Affairs, by 2020 we shifted our focus to include formal apprenticeships in our training offering.
Now, less than 3 years later, we are proud to have 10% of our workforce currently completing apprenticeships, across a range of areas including Regulatory Affairs, Management, IT and Accounting.
With our Regulatory Affairs services at the core of our business, in October 2020, two of our Regulatory Executives embarked on the Level 7 Regulatory Affairs Specialist apprenticeship with The Organisation for Regulatory Professionals (TOPRA), in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire.
This apprenticeship is a 30-month work-based training programme, providing a Masters-level training in Regulatory Affairs. Our apprentices spend 20% of their time attending formal regulatory training, covering key knowledge, skills and behaviours from the Regulatory Affairs Specialist Standard: a set of criteria created by professionals working in a variety of organisations covering pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
The remaining 80% of their time is spent on-the-job, working with our clients across various projects and being supported by dedicated mentors throughout the programme.
This apprenticeship offering has gone from strength to strength, with 2 further employees starting the same apprenticeship in 2021 and an additional 4 embarking on their journey in 2022.
Neha Santhosh, Regulatory Executive who started her Level 7 Regulatory Affairs Specialist a few months ago shared:
‘My colleagues recommended the TOPRA apprenticeship as they explained how it’s a great opportunity to gain a strong foundation in Regulatory Affairs as well as a chance to network with professionals in our industry. I’m incredibly grateful to DLRC for giving me this amazing opportunity and all the support they have given me so far. I’m looking forward for the next 2 years!’
Apprenticeships aren’t only for those taking their initial steps onto the career ladder but can also be incredible opportunities for those who are already established in their careers and want to upskill.
In February 2022, our Quality & Operations Manager, Victoria Gibbons, decided to take on a new challenge and started a Level 6 Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) with the University Centre Quayside.
This 3-year programme allows apprentices to develop both in the operational and strategic dimensions of management, while continuing to practice new approaches in a working environment.
Reflecting on her journey so far, Victoria shared:
‘At first, I was a little hesitant to take on a 3 year Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, I haven’t studied since leaving school, so it was a little daunting but the benefits of this apprenticeship outweighed any doubts.
I have just completed my first year, and although it has been challenging, I am really enjoying it.
The apprenticeship is not only helping to build my knowledge in areas where I have less experience, it is also helping to build my confidence.’
Although they provide great structure, apprenticeships should never be approached as a means to an end or a quick way to achieve a qualification. At DLRC, we view them as a unique way to tailor a bespoke learning pathway for our employees; layering apprenticeships where we can, to support our employees in the pursuit of their career goals.
Our Finance Manager, Matt Judges, joined DLRC in 2022 as he was partway through his Level 4 Professional Accounting Technician apprenticeship with First Intuition. Finishing in July 2022, Matt was keen to continue his learning and started the Level 7 Accounting and Taxation Professional degree apprenticeship last month.
This 3-year programme provides a Master-level training and aligns with globally recognised professional accountancy qualifications, while allowing Matt to share and develop his newly-learned knowledge and behaviours within our expanding Finance team.
As we have grown, we have experienced the importance of our people in driving the company to new heights. Expanding our internal IT team in 2022, we welcomed Jack Hipkins, our IT Helpdesk and Support Engineer who is completing his Level 3 Information Communication Technician Apprenticeship with QA.
Splitting his time between face-to-face theoretical training and on-the-job work, Jack has truly excelled and has become a pivotal member of the team, displaying exceptional professionalism, enthusiasm and is key in supporting our IT infrastructure as it continues to grow.
Reflecting on his time since starting the apprenticeship, Jack states:
‘I chose the apprentice route after finishing my A levels as I wanted to progress into higher education but also learn on the job and gain real world experience. The apprenticeship route was perfect for this and allows me to continue my studies while gaining invaluable on-the-job skills.
The apprenticeship has helped grow in many different areas including learning valuable industry skills like communication and time management, which can’t be taught through traditional learning.’
Having 10% of our workforce currently enrolled in apprenticeships is no small feat and over the last 3 years, we have worked hard to create an infrastructure of support for them, forming sustainable partnerships with a range of training providers.
All apprentices are surrounded by a wide network of internal staff, including their line managers and dedicated mentors, as well as receiving regular check-in meetings with their training providers and tutors. They also form close networks with their fellow apprentices, sharing best practice and tips with each other.
Business Transformation Manager & Training Lead, Rebecca Findlay, states:
‘We are incredibly proud to have so many of our people currently undertaking apprenticeships and are dedicated to creating and maintaining an environment for them to flourish and succeed. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to training doesn’t work and the apprenticeships allow employees to find a learning style that suits them, while we reap the rewards of developing a talented workforce that is equipped with the skills needed to drive DLRC forward.’
If the last 3 years are anything to go by, we are excited to see where our future apprenticeship journey takes us. We believe that by investing and building apprenticeships into our business, we are ensuring that our people have the technical knowledge, hands-on-experience and critical behaviours required to provide high quality services that add value for our clients and create a forward-thinking organisation.
We look forward to building new and exciting partnerships with training providers as well as championing apprenticeships as incredible opportunities for growth for both the employee and business.
If you are a business thinking of hiring an apprentice, more information can be found here: Hire an apprentice (apprenticeships.gov.uk).