An apprenticeship is a programme of structured education and training, which formally combines work place learning with learning in an education or training centre. The Laboratory Apprenticeship was designed in close alignment to the current needs of the Irish BioPharmaChem sector and are suitable for those, who currently have at a minimum a Level 5, and for those who wish to develop a career in the laboratory environment of the Biopharmaceutical, Pharmaceutical, Chemical Manufacturing, Food, Medical Devices, Independent Testing Laboratories and State Laboratories.
The demand for the development of these apprenticeships came following an Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report in 2015 which highlighted a skills shortage within the BioPharmaChem sector. The sector was then surveyed by BioPharmaChem Ireland, the business association within Ibec representing the biopharma and chemical sectors, which identified that recruitment and retention of skilled quality and laboratory personnel was at an all-time low.
A Laboratory Apprenticeship Consortium was established in 2017 which worked closely with the Institute of Technology, Tallaght (ITT) and engaged strongly with industry and other Institutes of Technology (IOTs). This engagement and commitment led to the approval of two Occupational Profiles for a Level 6 Higher Certificate in Science as a Laboratory Technician and a Level 7 Ordinary Bachelor of Science Degree as a Laboratory Analyst and ultimately, successful validation of both programmes in June 2018.
Following successful validation, a robust marketing plan was developed which would target school leavers, career changers and any with an interest in upskilling or working in a laboratory environment. Participating companies were given the go-ahead to begin their recruitment process, during which time contact would be maintained with the Project Manager to ensure overall smooth running and accurate record keeping between all companies, IOTs and future apprentices.
Engagement with SOLAS has been continuous and as such, commitment has been given to market and push out any Laboratory Apprenticeship information or material that is provided, as well as allowing the Laboratory Apprenticeship team to piggy back on certain events throughout the remainder of the year.
The first intake of apprentices is set for September 2018 and will be run out of the Lead Provider, ITT. The apprentice will spend two weeks in ITT, where they will learn critical skills required before beginning their contract within industry.
A second and third intake of apprentices is scheduled for January 2019 and September 2019, to be run out of regional IOTs, the location of which is dependent on company demand and commitment.
Going forward, apprentices will be recruited and begin study every January and September and will spend 3 days within industry and 2 days in academia.
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