Next up in our showcase of apprentices for National Apprenticeship Week 2021, meet Billy Hopkins, Laboratory Science Apprentice, Smiths Detection Hemel Hempstead.

My name is Billy Hopkins and I am a Laboratory Science Apprentice at Smiths Detection. I am involved in the development of the technology that is used in chemical detectors capable of detecting trace amounts of dangerous chemicals, such as narcotics and explosives. As part of my apprenticeship, I am also studying Chemical Science with the University of Kent, in order to obtain a degree in this subject.

What made you want to pursue a career in the sector and an apprenticeship?

The reason that I wanted to work in this sector is that the products that we develop are capable of saving lives and making the world a safer place. On top of that, there are many different fields that I can pursue a career in due to the vast number of threats that the security sector deals with, such as cybersecurity and biosecurity. It is also a sector that is constantly growing and changing as new threats are introduced into the world.

I chose to do an apprenticeship over going to university as I believe that having experience within the workplace is becoming increasingly important, and an apprenticeship offers this in abundance. As well as this, an apprenticeship offers a good mix of working and studying which helps to develop a wide range of skills.

What is your day to day role like and has it changed much due to the pandemic?

My day to day role consists of a range of different tasks which helps keep my job interesting and fresh. These tasks include making chemical solutions, performing scientific tests in order to present any relevant data to the team, and building hardware such a system that is able to detect tiny gas leaks.

Whilst my role hasn’t changed too much during the pandemic, it has pushed me to further develop some important skills. For example, I have had to conduct more presentations over Microsoft Teams which has helped me develop my presentation skills.

Have you worked on any interesting projects/programmes during your apprenticeship and can you provide details any details of the work?

As we develop products that detect dangerous chemicals, we have to use real samples of these chemicals to test their function. Due to this, I have had the opportunity to research and handle some hazardous materials, in a controlled and safe way. Whilst this was very daunting, it was also very exciting and helped me develop my health and safety, as well as risk assessment skills massively.

What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship?

The best thing about my apprenticeship so far has been the opportunities that I have already been granted, and the future prospects that I can look forward to. I feel like my apprenticeship has already provided me a clear path to pursue a career doing what I enjoy. Overall, I am excited for my future, as my apprenticeship has opened up many career paths that I may not have thought of or had access to beforehand.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career, and why?

I would highly recommend taking part in an apprenticeship scheme. Throughout my apprenticeship, I have always felt valued by my co-workers and the company as a whole.

You develop a wide range of skills that are important to any career path, such as communication, confidence and time management. Moreover, an apprenticeship teaches you how to work both independently and as part of a team. Of course, there is the added bonus of being paid whilst you develop these skills.

What is your advice to someone who would like to join an apprenticeship scheme in the sector?

My advice to somebody who is looking to do an apprenticeship in this sector is to be passionate about what you are doing. It is very important to stay motivated during the apprenticeship as there are many challenges that will come up and will have to be dealt with. Also, be prepared to take on plenty of responsibilities from the start of the apprenticeship. Whilst this can be daunting, it is also very rewarding. There will always be help available, and it is important to use it when needed.

To find out what else is coming up this week and read the other blogs, please read our National Apprenticeship Week 2021 blog.