The Experience of Starting as a Female Apprentice in Supply Chain

I am a first year Supply Chain Degree Apprentice at AstraZeneca, studying for my BSc in Professional Practise in Supply Chain Leadership at Leeds Trinity University.

The Supply Chain Apprentice at AstraZeneca is 4 years and covers a different role each year. You take part in rotations all along the Supply Chain, from learning how to be a Material Planner, to being part of the distribution team. This allows you to really find the field you are most interested in, so you can tailor your future career options with confidence.

Why did I choose to do an apprenticeship and not go to university?

My sixth form was very much “You need to go to a Russell Group University if you want to amount to anything successful”. It was a lot of pressure, especially when you felt you were being compared to the Oxbridge candidates in your year. My A-Level experience was up and down, and for this reason, I pushed aside applying for university and decided to take a gap year.

I applied to university to do Business Management and Chinese, and got offered all my places. However, something felt so easy about it all, it didn’t feel like I had earnt my place, and I knew I was trying to sell myself in something I didn’t 100% want.

Some people close to me had done Level 3 Apprenticeships, and were doing incredibly well for themselves, but not only that, they felt satisfied. That was the key. Satisfaction. So, I immediately started looking for high level apprenticeships. Work experience, a degree, networking opportunities, financial benefit, and a topic that I was enthused about; it all sounds too good to be true I know!

Tips for the application process:

The first stage is creating a Cover Letter, CV, and answering a few questions about why you want to do this programme online. Don’t worry. There are no timers or tricky questions. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, really show your achievements and link these attributes to how that would make you a great apprentice. “What skills show I’d be a great apprentice and employee?” is the key question here.

The crucial thing is to not just state these, but back them up with real life examples that show you have done this. For example, I said I had a hard work ethic shown by my activities on my family farm and my part time job at the local pub.

Don’t worry about not having specific experience to the job. I did Maths, History and Drama at A-Level, yet now I’m here doing Supply Chain! They want to see you have a drive to learn and can be a team player. Have a bit of background knowledge to the company and topic and this will show you are keen.

When you get the interview GET EXCITED! Although daunting, I can say out of all my interviews, AstraZeneca’s process put me at ease. There was an introduction, interview, delivery of a 10 min presentation that I had created and then a chat with the current apprentices.

Here are my top tips (I did my interview virtually, but the same applies for in person interviews):

  • Smile, they are pleased to have you there!
  • Dress to impress! I wore a polar neck and a suit jacket
  • Have those stories ready that show you and your capabilities
  • Practise some common interview questions beforehand: AstraZeneca know that you may have only come from school, so there won’t be anything you find hard to answer
  • Really show that personality off
  • Know why you want to work at AstraZeneca. Maybe it’s the principles they stand for, or a project you have taken interest in. Have a glance at the most recent annual  report for a company overview, and of course the website!
  • Is there a question you want to ask regarding AstraZeneca? Has something you’ve read whilst doing your research struck a chord and you want to know more? Having questions to ask back shows you are proactive and ready to grasp this role with both hands!

How do I manage working and studying at the same time?

AstraZeneca helps you find what kind of learner you are, and what are the best times for you to plough through those assignments. For me, I may complete my job, and then do a few hours of university work at night, so my 20% off the job study time (1 day a week) is for polishing and perfecting things I have done throughout the week.

My planner is my best friend and having the tutors at the university on hand at any time, means that we are probably better looked after than your average university student! It all helps to make sure you use that 20% effectively. You’ll find your own groove to it all anyway, and there are the other apprentices around to help you out during this time.

What is it like working at AstraZeneca?

Like a big family! I love my team, and they look after me so well. Unfortunately I have not yet been on site due to COVID, but with how well things are going virtually, I can only imagine how amazing it will be when I finally get to go into work. It is definitely more relaxed than you might imagine.

I can safely say I don’t think I’ve missed out on ‘university life’. However, with the vast amount of opportunities to get involved outside of work at AstraZeneca, and how much satisfaction I get from my apprenticeship, I absolutely love this adult lifestyle I’m living!

What is the most prominent thing you’ve learnt at AstraZeneca so far?

That I can message or email absolutely anybody in the company for help, advice, information. This company is inclusively collaborative. I have been able to reach out to so many industry experts, people that you would simply be unable to contact if you just went to university. For that reason alone, this apprenticeship is extremely valuable to catapult me into my career after graduation.

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