From apprentice to Automation Technician: my experience of STEM in the workplace

Liam is an Automation Technician at GSK and works at a manufacturing site in Montrose, Scotland. Here he explains the benefits of apprenticeships, why he became a STEM Ambassador and how he got involved with the ENTHUSE Partnerships programme.

Tell us about your apprenticeship and the benefits it has presented

My apprenticeship stemmed from when I was in my fourth year at school. I had the opportunity to do work experience at the GSK site in Montrose. During this experience I rotated around several departments, all contributing to the day to day running of the site. The department that interested me the most was the engineering department, specifically the instrumentation department. This encouraged me to start applying for apprenticeships, which lead to me successfully gaining the role of Instrumentation Apprentice.

The first year was off the job training, where I learned the basics of engineering and skills and techniques that allowed me to transition between school and an industrial workplace seamlessly.

After this first year, I returned to site to continue with on the job training. This included going onto site and assisting the tradesman with routine instrumentation work, progressively through the years taking on more responsibility with hands-on work. During my apprenticeship I also attended college where I learnt the theory behind my trade. 

The GSK apprenticeship was a life changing experience as it took me from school life into real industry. As well as earning whilst I was learning, I experienced different things that I would never normally experience in my day to day life. It was one of the best things I have ever done.

What is your current role at GSK?

My current role at GSK in Montrose is an Automation Technician. I moved into this role after completing my apprenticeship. Part of my day to day role is shift site support, ensuring that the plant runs continuously and there are no automation breakdowns, from control systems to instruments. Also, part of my job is assisting the process engineers for any improvements to the systems that we can make. This is to help make it easier for operators or to improve the time it takes to make a batch. 

How did you become a STEM Ambassador and what types of activities to you do?

All GSK apprentices are offered the opportunity to complete STEM Ambassadors training. This allows us to promote apprenticeships in local schools, attend career fairs and help to promote STEM more broadly by giving real-life industry insights.

Following on from this, I decided to join the School Liaison Team on site. This involved working with our local schools in the community organising events, work experiences and lunch and learn events.

How did you get involved in the ENTHUSE Partnership programme?

I got involved in supporting a local ENTHUSE Partnership as part of my role within the School Liaison Team. This allows our site to support schools in our local area that want our specific help and allows us to promote STEM more broadly.

Would you recommend getting involved with ENTHUSE Partnerships?

I would recommend the ENTHUSE Partnership programme as it is a fantastic way to help promote STEM in the local area. It is also a big opportunity to create links with local schools, which supports the sharing of what we do and how we use STEM in our day to day activities.

It helps young people to understand what STEM is, how they can use it and how it applies to everyday life. From this, they can relate what they are doing in maths or technology classes to what happens in real-life industry. It's an excellent opportunity for everyone involved.

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