Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ciara O’Reilly. I am 19 years old. I live in Swords Co. Dublin and went to secondary school in Loreto College Swords. I am currently studying to become a QC Laboratory Analyst, through the Ibec Laboratory Apprenticeship in Technological University Dublin, Tallaght.
What were you doing before you started the program?
I completed my Leaving Certificate in June 2019. In August 2019, I went for an interview to be considered for this program.
What company are you working with as part of this program?
I am currently working for Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Blanchardstown. Alexion is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on serving patients and families affected by rare diseases and devastating conditions through the discovery, development and commercialization of life-changing medicines. Alexion are driven to continuously innovate and create meaningful value in all they do to help patients and families live their best lives.
What year of the program are you in?
I am going into year 2 of the program.
What made you interested in getting into this line of work?
I studied Biology for my Leaving Certificate. I really enjoyed the laboratory work we did in school and I was fascinated by the information I learned throughout the course. This increased my interest in pursuing a career in Science, especially in a laboratory.
What made you decide to choose the apprenticeship as a path for your education?
I chose to do this apprenticeship because of the valuable knowledge and experience that can only be gained from hands-on learning within a professional environment. Full time students in a traditional college course would typically focus more on theoretical learning with some limited work experience, whereas the apprenticeship focuses on practical learning which is supported by theoretical training in parallel.
How is the laboratory apprenticeship going so far? What skills are you learning?
I am thoroughly enjoying my apprenticeship so far. Working for a company like Alexion has made me more motivated than ever to work to the best of my ability and continue my studies as well. I have met amazing people who have taught me so much. I have gained many skills such as Good Laboratory Practices, Compendial Testing, working in a regulated environment, working as part of a dynamic team and being patient focused to name a few. The talented team of analysts I work alongside are highly skilled and motivated and inspire me daily.
Tell us about a typical day in the lab for you.
My typical day in work starts off with a morning meeting where each analyst is told what testing will be carried out. I usually perform compendial tests such as pH and Volume. I enjoy doing this testing as every day differs from the next. On a day when I am not testing, I make buffers and other reagents used in our lab. There is always work to be completed in the lab, making every day busy but extremely enjoyable too.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing the program?
If you are interested in doing this course, you will not be disappointed! This course helps you have a college and work life balance. Being able to work in an environment based on your studies makes you more motivated to learn. What you do in work is relevant to what you do in college and likewise what you do in college is relevant to what you do in work. This really helps you focus and is a great way of learning your trade. I really believe this format has also helped my grades a lot too.
How do you think this differs from a traditional college course?
This program offers a lot more experience than a typical college course. Many college courses offer three months’ work experience but with this apprenticeship you get three years! Experience is vital and is as equally important as a degree, so being able to have three years of experience in this program is incredible. When I complete my course I will have a degree and three years Lab experience which is a major plus for prospective employers.
Having experience working in a regulated environment and understanding Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) so early in my career is also a huge advantage.
Do you feel you were supported in your role both on and off the job?
I have been supported by Alexion both on and off the job. I’ve found that they truly care about both my work and my studies. This has allowed me to excel in my studies, receiving grades that I am very proud of. I’ve e experienced a fantastic culture here, where everyone in Alexion is treated equally, no matter their job title. This has encouraged me to take ownership in my work, working to my best ability.
How has the program benefitted you?
The program has benefitted me tremendously. I am very proud of how far I have come as an analyst and a student. I was always a hands-on learner so being able to put my studies into my everyday work has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of my apprenticeship. Personally, I feel I have benefited greatly by working in a state of the art Laboratory such as the one in Alexion.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to continue working for Alexion after the completion of my apprenticeship. I would also like to study part time and expand my knowledge. Being based in the Chemistry Lab here at Alexion has increased my interest in Chemistry. I would like to continue my studies in this field specifically, but would also like to touch base on other pharmaceutical studies such as Pharmaceutical Business. I am eager to progress within Alexion and am excited for what the future will bring.