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Environmental health apprenticeships grow in popularity

Four UK universities are now offering environmental health apprenticeships
02 February 2022 , By Sarah Campbell

Two apprentices at King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council claim to have “the best of both worlds” thanks to online classes one day a week

Uptake of environmental health apprenticeships has increased dramatically since their launch in 2019. The course was previously only available at Middlesex University and had a handful of students. Now, Leeds Beckett University, University Centre Weston and the University of Wolverhampton also offer the course, with cohorts of up to 30 apprentices in the 2021-22 academic year.

In the run-up to National Apprenticeship Week, we caught up with two apprentices employed by the same local authority – but at quite different stages of their careers.

Lilly Skeels joined King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council just over two years ago, straight after her A levels, to do a level 4 apprenticeship in regulatory compliance. She has since embarked on the environmental health degree via a second apprenticeship. “I was always interested in science, which is what drew me to the regulatory compliance apprenticeship. Now this apprenticeship is the next step in hopefully going forward to work as an environmental health officer. I’m getting all different experiences around the council at the moment as I’m being moved around departments. It’s definitely interesting.”

Amy Burgess is a technical officer with extensive experience in environmental health, including regular biotoxin sampling at the King’s Lynn shellfish docks and previously working in animal licensing. “The apprenticeship is a perfect fit for where I want to be in my career now,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to do a degree, I’ve always wanted to go to that next level of education. The opportunities weren’t right earlier in my life but this came along and it’s where I want to go.”

The two apprentices are released one day a week for online classes at University Centre Weston. Both agree that while they would like to see their classmates in person more often, the online model works well for them as it gives them flexibility. “All the lectures are recorded and the documents are all in one place so you can go back over things. I’ve probably found it more beneficial being online than if I had to go to lectures,” says Skeels.

“I’ve gathered so much more experience than I probably would have going to university. It’s allowed me to grow as a person in my career already.” 

She contrasts her experience with that of friends who went to university full-time. “A lot of them I think are quite envious that I’m getting paid to work and do the uni course,” she says. “With everything being online because of COVID-19 I think they’ve definitely struggled. But for me it’s been so beneficial because I’ve gathered so much more experience than I probably would have going to university. It’s allowed me to grow as a person in my career already.”

When asked what advice they might have for someone considering an environmental health apprenticeship, Burgess says: “I think it’s a great way to develop your career and to develop yourself. And especially for me, as you get older there's so many more risks in just taking a full-time course without working – you've got to work, you've got to pay the bills. It felt a little bit like that door might have been closed for me but this has opened it up. I can do both: the best of both worlds.”

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