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Practice, experience and hands-on learning offered by apprenticeships


Amy Mercer

Amy Mercer is in the fourth year of an apprenticeship with a pharmaceutical company.

Amy wanted to learn chemistry through hands-on work, rather than a lecture room, so chose an apprenticeship so she could get a degree and plenty of experience. We asked her about her route into the industry. She recently won the “One To Watch” award from Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

1: What attracted you to a career in a STEM industry?

“I was studying for a BTEC in Applied Science with extended forensic science and excelled in chemistry and so wanted to do hands-on work in the field. I really enjoyed being in a laboratory environment and this practical study inspired me to pursue chemistry through the pharmaceutical industry.”

2: Who was your role model as a women in science? Did you come across any negativity when entering the industry?

“I always loved a character called Abby Sciuto in the show NCIS because she was such a strong, confident woman, I loved everything that she stood for.

“I went to a performing arts school and I was the only girl of my year to go in to a career in science. During my three and a half years so far I’ve not come across any prejudice personally, but I’m aware it exists. Women are quite well represented in pharmaceuticals, we make up around 42 per cent of the industry. I was interviewed by two women to earn my apprenticeship and my first boss was a woman.”

3: What prompted you to take the apprenticeship route in the industry?

“It’s a personal choice but I never really wanted to go to university. I’m more of a hands-on learner.

“It was clear to me that, through my apprenticeship, I’d still have a degree in five years time but when I go to a job interview I’d be offering an employer someone with five years experience working on real projects in the industry.

“I’m really passionate about my work in industry, helping with the process of getting potentially life changing medicines to people that need them the most. I’ve received testimonals before about how a project I’ve worked on has changed someone’s life for the better and hearing those words is indescribable and so rewarding.”

4: What advice would you pass on to young women considering pursuing a STEM career, perhaps through an apprenticeship?

“I’d say look explore your options because I speak to a lot of school children who aren’t aware of apprenticeships being just as good as going to university. I’d also say that they need to be confident because there’s no reason they can’t be a success in STEM industries, nothing’s holding them back.

“I’d caution, though, they need to be themselves and never be too proud to ask for help if there’s something they need a little more guidance on. Sometimes young women can see this as a weakness, but it’s not.”

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