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National Apprenticeship Week 2024: Cansford offers an alternative route to a career in STEM

February 6, 2024

Cansford Laboratories has introduced its first apprenticeship programme in conjunction with Gower College Swansea, to provide better access to the profession and an alternative route to a career in STEM.

Laboratory and STEM roles

Laboratory and STEM roles have traditionally been secured by graduates who hold a degree in a related scientific discipline. Recognising that this can be a barrier to embarking on a career in STEM, Cansford has introduced its apprenticeship for those who are looking for a different way into a scientific career.

Due to the high level of scientific knowledge and accuracy required, there are certain roles that only graduates can perform. However, facilitating a Laboratory Technician to undertake an apprenticeship allows that person to learn on-the-job and progress to all areas of the business, including those previously only accessible to graduates.

Meet Thomas

Thomas Watkins started with Cansford as a Laboratory Technician following a career at Morrisons Supermarket. As part of his previous role, Thomas had experience in calibration, measuring temperatures and weights, and data logging.

This required a high degree of diligence and accuracy, and these transferable skills are a perfect base for starting supervised laboratory work. Once Thomas wanted to move on from his existing role, he applied to work at Cansford Laboratories after hearing about the business through a personal connection.

In partnership with Gower College Swansea

Gower College Swansea approached Laboratory Operations Manager, James Nutt, and made him aware of the possibility and advantages of Laboratory Technician apprenticeships. Thomas was the perfect candidate and is now on a two-year Level 4 programme in Life Sciences and Related Industries.

This includes studying for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). This qualification and on-the job learning will allow Tom to progress to other scientific positions and/or continue onto a Chemistry degree upon completion.


Thomas Watkins says: “This is an amazing opportunity for me to enter a science-based career, a career I previously thought closed to me. I spend one day a week in college, and the rest of the week working as a Laboratory Technician.

“It feels great to be doing work that is impactful and important, whilst I get to further my education. The team at Cansford are really supportive and I am excited for what the future holds.”

Cansford Labs says…

James Nutt, says: “Apprenticeships are a great way of opening up the talent pool and investing in the future of STEM. There are significant benefits for both us and for our apprentices. We are able to develop an individual, which in time will provide us with a candidate who has the necessary skill set to progress.

“At the same time, the apprentice can retain a full-time role, being paid a regular salary and receiving education to allow them to progress within the company.”

Gower College Swansea

Sophie Gawryla, Tutor/Assessor for Scientific Technologies at Gower College Swansea, says: “Science apprenticeships with Gower College provide a strong foundation of scientific principles that give learners the confidence to advance in a STEM career they may have assumed was out of reach.

As Thomas’s assessor, it’s great to see him growing into his role and learning how to apply his years of practical experience in a way that is not only tailored to the needs of Cansford but formally recognises the skills he is developing.

“I believe Thomas is a great example of the need to celebrate the knowledge and skills an alternative route into STEM may bring. With a team of support from James, his lecturers and myself, Thomas will hopefully be the first of many successful apprentices progressing their careers within Cansford Labs and Gower College Swansea!”