North East chemical research and development company, High Force Research, is investing in its future by appointing its first ever apprentice chemist.
Megan Jones, 18, from Chester-le-Street, has joined the company which specialises in new product development in pharmaceutical, biotechnology and fine chemicals industries.
As well as doing her five-year apprenticeship, which will enable her to learn key practical skills working alongside experienced chemists, Jones – who attended New College Durham – will also study part-time for a chemistry degree at Teesside University.
High Force Research has secured funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to pay the first three years of Jone’s university fees and the County Durham-based company will solely fund the final two years of her five-year degree course.
Director Stuart Penny believes High Force Research will reap the rewards of investing in the education and training of future employees, as well as increase the company’s chances of being able to attract the best youngsters from the North East.
Penny commented: “We want to recruit bright people and develop their skills. After 12 months Megan will be contributing in a positive way as she will be taught by chemists four or five days a week.
“Usually we recruit graduates and, although we will continue to do so, appointing an apprentice is another way we can grow and develop our employees.
“We are teaching the practical skills needed in a working environment, while at university, Megan will learn all the theory behind the work.
“If we can develop our own staff and get them working to the required standard and develop the practical skills of chemistry, it benefits the company in the long term.
“The North East needs to keep highly skilled people in the region as they will contribute to the economy and benefit companies.”
Jones said: “This is a great opportunity to progress my career in chemistry as I will be learning practical skills in a laboratory and working alongside experienced chemists.
“As well as gaining valuable hands-on experience, I will also achieve a degree at the end of five years.”
The Royal Society of Chemistry is the UK’s professional body for chemists with more than 50,000 members around the world. They offer funding to small companies through their Enterprise Plus programme, which funded an industrial placement at High Force Research for York University student James Sykes and for recent Durham University graduate Matthew Hammond.
Royal Society of Chemistry small companies programme manager, Dr Clare Wilson said: “High Force Research is an ideal place for young people to start their career and learn about the industry.
“We have worked with them for two years and we are really happy to support them as part of our wider programme helping small companies in the UK.”
Cogent, the strategic skills partner to the science industry, has worked in partnership with High Force Research to select the most appropriate apprenticeship route, recruit the candidate and design the training programme.
Geoff Cox, apprenticeship advisor for Cogent Skills said: “High Force Research should be commended for their approach to developing higher level skills through the vocational route and being one of the first companies to build the skills it needs by using the new Degree Apprenticeship.”