Technical Apprentice Case Study - Tamara Martinez

05 February 2024

Name: Tamara Martinez

Employer: Nottingham Trent University

Role: Apprentice Laboratory Technician (Biosciences)

Level: 3

Time in role: 6 months

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship? 

I decided to do an apprenticeship as I have always known that my passions lie within Biosciences and that ultimately I wanted to work within the sector while studying the subjects I love, learning alongside working helps me to link theory to application and also become a better problem solver which is a massive part of being a lab tech.

What are your roles and responsibilities?
My current rotation is in the teaching labs at a university where I work alongside the teaching technicians to prepare solutions, set up and maintain equipment as well as culturing bacteria and passaging cell lines for our tissue culture labs.

What did you do before your apprenticeship?
Before the apprenticeship, I completed and passed all my GCSEs. I also chose to undertake the first year of A-levels (AS-levels) but found it wasn’t quite for me as I wanted to be more hands-on and interactive with my learning. While figuring out what I wanted to do, I worked 3 years at my family’s restaurant whilst working part-time as a remote project manager for a small online international business doing night and morning shifts after my evenings at the restaurant. This was hard but I was determined to find the right opportunities for me.

What have you gained from your apprenticeship?
Undertaking an apprenticeship has helped me to massively build my confidence, and become increasingly independent in my work and life. I have gained more opportunities than I would have done staying purely in education and I have gained more interpersonal skills and resilience from my apprenticeship, I feel like I am growing and developing quicker than ever before. 

What are the benefits of completing an apprenticeship over other pathway choices (eg: A-Levels)? 

There are so many benefits to completing an apprenticeship. You get to earn while you learn and are left with minimal student debt. You gain valuable work experience in the field which can be very hard to obtain if you have only A-levels or a Degree with no work experience. You get the opportunity to get your foot in the door into the job or sector you want to be in and you greatly increase your employability due to already being trained in the skills needed for your job. Apprenticeships are an amazing opportunity and I would greatly recommend anyone who has the opportunity to do one to take that chance.

Where do you see yourself after your apprenticeship is completed? 

After my apprenticeship, I plan to either continue in employment improving the skills I have already learnt and gaining more responsibility in my job or perhaps pursue a degree apprenticeship where I can learn more about more subjects within the field and gain more of an in-depth knowledge about the science behind my everyday work.

Did anything surprise you about your apprenticeship? If so, what?

While starting my apprenticeship in late 2023, I was very surprised by how many people in my field had also completed a lab technician apprenticeship! This was a pleasant surprise and has helped me start my apprenticeship as I now have colleagues who understand and have gone through the same experiences as myself.

What support has been valuable to you? What tips would you give to apprentice managers?
During my apprenticeship, I have had a lot of support from my apprentice tutor and my line managers. I receive regular 1-1s with them where I am free to discuss anything that I may need help with and they also give me feedback on my work which is so useful and needed for personal development. 

I highly suggest that any managers taking on new apprentices arrange regular 1-1s with them, check in with them, especially when they are first starting, have a staff development programme already in place and put yourself in your apprentices’ shoes. This may be their first job in the field or their first job ever, they may need to be taught things that you automatically do so please bear that in mind and give them many opportunities for CPD, networking, and going on rotations in the job, this will all help with their learning as well as developing your business and reputation.

Do you have any advice for others who are considering an apprenticeship?
If you are thinking about starting an apprenticeship, I would say it is an amazing opportunity. I would strongly advise you to do your research about the job and the company as well. When I was an aspiring lab technician, I would watch days in the life of a lab tech and read blogs about it. Keeping up to date in the field is also great, I read the New Scientist magazine and many books in the field and doing this will also help with your interview and application. Good Luck Future Apprentices!