A head start

By 21st September 2022 Blog

How a Level 3 apprenticeship launched Abby Shipley’s career as a Lab Technician


Abby Shipley began her apprenticeship journey after finishing secondary school in 2019.

Starting out as a Level 3 apprentice aged 16, Abby was employed by the University of Sheffield’s faculty of science, and spent one day a week at Sheffield College studying Applied Science. 

In addition to her college course, Abby was also working towards a Lab Associated Technical Activities NVQ. 

She said: “I learnt how to use many analytical techniques and scientific equipment including NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) spectrometers and HPLCs (High-performance liquid chromatography). I also helped out in the teaching labs, preparing practicals for undergraduate students. 

“During my apprenticeship I learnt so many new things that I would have never dreamt of doing in school.”

Abby Shipley (right) receives a certificate for passing the Level 3 Laboratory Technician Apprenticeship

A job opportunity arose at the university just as Abby’s apprenticeship was coming to an end. She applied for the role of a grade 3 Teaching and Research Technician, successfully getting the job within the chemistry department. 

Abby was able to complete her studies whilst being employed as a member of staff, although she faced interruptions to her apprenticeship following restrictions put in place as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I am incredibly happy that I chose the apprenticeship path because I am at an advantaged position to be in such a good job now at such a young age”, said Abby.

“I have had many life experiences and my personality has changed a lot for the better. I am a lot more confident and resilient and I am ready for whatever life has to offer. It was great to have a salary at 16 when everyone I knew from school was working weekend jobs to do things on the weekends, but I worked hard at my studies and within my job to get that.” 

Abby is now employed as a Lab Technician at a grade 5 salary in the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield. She is also enrolled on the Level 6 Laboratory Scientist (Chemical Science) Degree Apprenticeship with Manchester Metropolitan University.

She said: “I am super excited to have been given the opportunity to further my studies and I think it will help me to connect the links between the more hands-on job I do, like fixing machinery, with the chemical knowledge behind how it works. 

“Sometimes I struggle with having less chemical knowledge because it is needed to do my job, and being in such an academically focused institution, I occasionally feel left behind because I have more learning to do yet, but the degree apprenticeship should help me to get to a good standard of knowledge and help me progress in my job.”

Abby isn’t sure which direction her career will take her in the long-term but plans to remain in the chemical field. 

“I think that it is okay to not know what you want but to not let that prevent you from taking good opportunities when you see them,” she said.

Head here to find out more about apprenticeships