Emma Leire of Centauri: Apprenticeships tailor skills to the needs of a business

Emma Leire of Centauri Therapeutics explains to the University of Kent that the great thing about an apprenticeship is that you can train the apprentice in a specific area so you are tailoring a person’s skills to your area of work

What’s your name and role here?

My name is Emma Leire and I’m the lead microbiologist here at Centauri Therapeutics.

Can you tell us a little about the apprenticeships at Centauri?

So we are a small biotechnology company and we had an apprentice join us at the very beginning. To start with, he was helping out with little things in the lab, ordering materials and stocking up the inventory. As he moved through the training, he’s become a really important member of the team. He is now planning his own experiments, presenting data to the team, and running alongside people who have trained in a different way. It’s been really good.

What made you decide to employ an apprentice?

We already have some experience within the company with employees who have gone through a similar training within a large pharmaceutical company. We know the value of someone who started as a junior scientist who has trained up through the company. In the end, they have all the skills you really need. Also, being a growing company, it’s exciting to have a young scientist join you, getting the skills you desperately need to become a key member of your team in the end.

How much input do you have in the apprenticeship as an employer?

At the beginning, we needed to understand a little more about how it worked and what we needed to do, but actually now our apprentice is handling most of his interaction with the university, so we don’t need to. The modules are very well organised. He has one day a week where he focuses on his studies, the rest of the time he’s a full-time employee. It’s not a lot of extra work for us as an employer aside from giving him one day a week for his studies.

What’s the best thing about employing an apprentice?

You get to see someone grow at work, from not knowing a lot to running their own experiments. It’s hard to find someone with exactly the skills that you need so the great thing about an apprenticeship is that you can train them in a specific area so you are tailoring a person’s skills to your area of work.

Can you describe how your apprentice has contributed to your business?

As we’ve grown, we’ve needed very specific expertise and unique skills, so where he has been with us throughout that process, it means he has the right skills. It’s also exciting to see someone else excited about your work.

Any surprises on your experience as an employer?

No, it’s been well organised in terms of different modules of study. Our apprentice has been great at telling us what he needs in terms of studying so he can complete the course. I’ve been happily surprised with how things have worked.

What advice would you give employers looking to take on an apprentice?

Some employers might think it takes a lot of time, which it did in the beginning, however, when you hire new staff you need to do this anyway. Having an apprentice start means they can really grow and develop within the company, which I think is a huge benefit. He is now one of the employees who knows all the assays in the lab the best, as he’s been setting up a lot of the experiments as part of his training.

As a business, what is the value added by employing an apprentice?

To help someone grow within their skillset is really important, not only for us as business but for the Kent community, and to know he could either work with us or go elsewhere and he will have all of that industry training with him.

To find out more about apprenticeships at the University of Kent, visit: www.kent.ac.uk/apprenticeships

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