Meet apprentices like Jill at Skills Northern Ireland

Skills Northern Ireland takes place on 20 and 21 November 2019. At this year’s event the Department for the Economy will be celebrating their recently launched NI Apprenticeship Awards for 2020 by hosting an “Apprenticeship Hall of Fame”, featuring apprentices from Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Shu, Fujitsu, Arup and Norbrook.

Jill Saunders, who is currently a Higher Level Apprentice working at Norbrook in Newry will be on the stand on Thursday 21 November talking about her apprenticeship. Read on for a quick Q&A with her about her experience.

What first encouraged you to do an apprenticeship?

On A level results day, I was unsure about which career path I wanted to take. I did not feel enrolling on a degree course for the sake of attending university was the best option for me. I had a keen interest in sciences and when exploring further options, I came across the apprenticeship opportunity. This was offering a career in a field of interest, a degree qualification and I would get paid to complete it.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship experience? What did it involve? 

I was placed in the Quality Control department within Norbrook Laboratories, where I was assigned a work-based mentor. The mentor was there to encourage me and ensure I was settling into the new working environment. They began developing my analytical skills through training required for the job role. In conjunction with four days working, I attended Southern Regional College one day a week where I received classroom teaching towards a foundation degree. The course was designed to be accessible at all times through an online platform, supported with blended learning and skype sessions to facilitate our busy schedules. Upon completion of the first year, I was rotated to a research and development department in the company to gain a broader understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and develop new skills.

What key bits of advice would you give a young person today who is starting their career? 

Research the options available to you and consider what will be beneficial in the long term. For example, many of my colleagues pay student loan debt each month and will continue to for a long period of time. Studying through an apprenticeship programme gives a competitive edge over other graduate candidates as the invaluable work experience accelerates career progression. Another advantage is the ability to show a possible future employer your potential as an employee.

Why would you encourage young people to visit events like Skills Northern Ireland?

At the time when I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t aware that such an opportunity existed. Going along to the Skills Northern Ireland event will allow young people to gain a broader understanding into what organisations and academic institutions are offering, in order to ensure they make the best decision for themselves.

If you’d like to speak to Jill or any of the other apprentices at the event please register for a FREE visit: