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Anne Clarke, Kathryn Saunders, Sarah Hamilton and Stephen Macaulay are the first Higher Level Apprentices to graduate with a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences from Ulster University.

Funded by the Department for the Economy, the Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) programme for Northern Ireland blends on and off the job training while ensuring quality and achievement of the full apprenticeship award. The apprentice is in paid employment while working towards an industry approved qualification.

The development of this Higher Level Apprenticeship involved collaboration and engagement by the educational partners Ulster University and Southern Regional College as well as the leading Northern Ireland pharmaceutical companies, Norbrook Laboratories Ltd, Almac and Randox at the heart of the process. This effective partnership has ensured that the Higher Level Apprenticeship programme has successfully produced high skilled apprentices in order to meet industry needs including a seamless transition up to Level 6 within the Life and Industrial Sciences sector.

The HLA programme is employer led and it is the demand from employers that determines the number of starts. For employers it is a means to reduce skill gaps and increase productivity, specific to their needs. For the apprentice, HLAs provide the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’, in employment from day one and no student loan as they work towards professional level qualifications.

The first four apprentices to graduate are from Norbrook Laboratories.

Professor John Callan, Norbrook Chair in Pharmaceutical Science, Ulster University said:

“Ulster University is committed to providing flexible learning pathways that enable a broader participation of students in Higher Education. We are delighted to be the educational partner for delivery of the BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences, that complements experiential on-the-job learning apprentices receive in their workplace.

“This particular programme has been designed to meet the needs of industry, providing apprentices with the necessary knowledge and skills to have successful careers in the Pharmaceutical and related Industries.”

Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary for the Department for the Economy said:

“We are delighted to see the first Higher Level Apprenticeship employees from the Chemical Sciences Pathway graduate from Ulster University. This is a momentous achievement for these apprentices to accomplish their apprenticeship ambitions and also for Norbrook Laboratories Ltd to meet their skills needs within the Life and Industrial Sciences sector through the Higher Level Apprenticeship Programme”.

Brian Doran, CEO, SRC commented:

“We are delighted to see the first group of apprentices from Norbrook successfully completing the level 6 apprenticeship. This a momentous occasion marking the first cohort of apprentices progressing for the level 5 apprenticeship delivered in conjunction with Southern Regional College. The apprenticeship pathway that now exists is an excellent example of College and University working in partnership with industry to meet their future skills. We wish the apprentices every success in the future and congratulate then on their pioneering achievements.”

Dr Lillian Cromie, Director, Norbrook Laboratories Ltd said:

“Collaborating with Ulster University and Southern Regional College over the years has assisted Norbrook in providing progressive training opportunities for our staff. The collaborative development of the Higher Level Apprenticeship Level 6 in Pharmaceutical Sciences ensures the content of the programme reflects industry needs. It provides a flexible and accessible model which has enabled our apprentices to successfully apply their learnings from University in their role at Norbrook Laboratories. As the Chair of the Northern Ireland Sectoral Partnership Forum for Life and Health science, I am immensely proud to celebrate with the apprentices in their Level 6 graduation, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland”.