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2021 IOP Apprenticeship Employer Award

National Physical Laboratory for developing their award-winning apprentice programme which has inspired the next generation of scientists and engineers and enabled innovation to thrive by fostering energetic, passionate and talented young people.

After more than 20 years, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) restarted its apprenticeship programme in 2013, recruiting junior science apprentices.

The programme is fundamental to NPL’s strategy to ensure STEM careers are available to all. NPL’s deputy CEO, Martyn Sené, who sponsors the programme, stated: “It’s an invaluable, new source of skills and talent adding a new dimension to our community, with innovative ideas and different perspectives.”

Over the years, NPL has added more apprenticeships: engineering, metrology (a trailblazer for both level 3 and 5), IT, business administration, digital marketing and finance. The programme is continually reviewed and improved to ensure it delivers impact for apprentices and the organisation. Recent enhancements include deeper collaboration between supervisors, training providers and apprentices to provide an even more professional, streamlined and enjoyable experience.

Apprentices receive structured training, classroom learning, mentoring from industry-leading scientists and unique opportunities such as group mentoring from Olympic gold medallists. Working with NPL’s world-leading scientists excites apprentices that their contributions lead to world-impacting work. NPL offers all its employees, including apprentices, ongoing and flexible support, including continuing professional development, which the IOP recognised with its Best Practice in Professional Development awards from 2008-20.

NPL’s apprentices reinforce their learning through a highly respected outreach programme led by Andrew Hanson, awarded an MBE for services to STEM education. The outreach programme ensures that the general public understands the importance of metrology and inspires the next generation. It encourages apprentices to become excellent communicators, with many involved in visits from government ministers and local MPs and representing NPL at the House of Lords.

The success of NPL’s apprenticeship programme has been validated by several awards, including: Regional Apprentice of the Year, Regional Apprentice Highly Commended, Runner-up National Apprentice of the Year, IOP Apprentice of the Year, and an IOP Technician Award. A number of apprentices have won awards, including: the Royal Academy of Engineering award for pandemic services as well as The Engineer: Collaborate to Innovate award. One apprentice even ranked in the UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering.

Bringing science to everyone is vital to the success of NPL’s apprentice programme, and many of those who have been recognised for their contributions have been from diverse backgrounds. This external recognition supports NPL’s vision that differences must be celebrated to bring success.

The programme has enabled talented people to develop knowledge and skills, whilst getting their first taste of working in a science organisation – becoming and inspiring the scientists and engineers of the future.