Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
I chose an apprenticeship with GSK because I’ve always wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve always had an interest in chemistry and grew up with a pharmacist for an aunt and a GSK employee for an uncle, so I was exposed of this industry from a young age. When the opportunity arose, it seemed like it was meant to be.
How did you find out about it?
My uncle actually works at GSK and he always knew I had an interest in GSK and the pharmaceutical industry so he suggested I apply.
In your opinion does secondary school focus too much on CAO points? If so, what changes do you think could be made to make students more aware of their options?
I don’t think it’s the fault of any secondary school. I think that as a society we’re just misinformed. I definitely think there’s a great pressure to succeed academically. In secondary school, there’s an unavoidable competitiveness. You feel obliged to take on eight subjects, do them all at higher level, and get honours in each one, because that’s what all your peers are doing. In 6th year, you are inundated with information on college and it can consume you, especially if you’re unsure of the path you want to take. CAO points are portrayed as the most important thing, which I think is unnecessary. At the end of the day, it is a number that doesn’t reflect you or your talents and strengths in any way. Students should be made more aware of the other options out there.
How did people (family / friends / teachers) react to your choice?
My family were ecstatic. I was already attending college when I got offered the job, and was afraid that they’d prefer me to pursue university but they were extremely supportive. My friends were surprised that I’d chosen to take an apprenticeship seeing as I was in college, but they were happy for me.
How are you getting on? Is it what you expected? What is it like?
I’m so happy I took on this apprenticeship. My type of apprenticeship is the first of its kind, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I actually got it. I think it has been a learning curve for everyone involved – me, my boss, and my co workers. But everyone has been so helpful and accommodating. I enjoy coming to work every day and learning something new.
What are the main advantages for you starting your career in this way?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always wanted to work for in pharmaceuticals. If I had continued university and graduated four years down the line, I know I would still be applying for a career in this sector, so if anything I’ve just given myself a head-start.
The biggest advantage for me is definitely the aspect of learning on the job. I feel like being immersed in the working environment and learning while doing is extremely beneficial to succeeding in this career. You can learn all the chemistry in the world while you’re in university, but learning how to apply your knowledge to a work setting can be difficult. I learn through experience, trial and error, or from my co-workers. Of course, being financially stable and having that independence is a massive bonus too.
How does it compare to your peers doing their college courses?
It’s a very different dynamic! My schedule is a lot less flexible than my friends at college, because I’m in a full time, permanent contract – I work Monday to Friday. You learn not to take your time off for granted. I’m still doing a university course in Chemistry while doing this job, so academically we are in similar circumstances. Obviously, having a full time job and also doing college is a balance that my friends don’t have to deal with, that’s a big difference.
What Leaving Cert requirements did you need?
I needed a C or higher in higher or ordinary maths, a C or higher in at least four other subjects, and I needed a C in one or more science subjects at a higher level (Biology, Chemistry or Physics).