Degree apprenticeship launched for chemical engineers

Major employers in the North West have formed a partnership with the University of Chester’s Faculty of Science & Engineering to offer the UK’s first chemical engineering degree apprenticeship.

The Science Industry Process/Plant Engineer degree apprenticeship is the first in the UK to be based on an Institution of Chemical Engineers accredited degree: the BEng in Chemical Engineering which is offered at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park.

Consumer goods company Unilever was the first employer in the UK to offer the apprenticeship, taking on apprentice Michael Leary to work in its advanced manufacturing research and development centre in October last year.

While working as part of the pilot plant team, Mr Leary is studying part-time at the university for the BEng degree in chemical engineering. He is paid by Unilever as a full time employee and does not pay any tuition fees.

University of Chester’s head of the department of chemical engineering Professor Steve Wilkinson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Michael and the other degree apprentices,” adding that the ethos of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Thornton Science Park was to produce “industry-ready graduates”.

“When we designed our courses from scratch in 2013, we built them around industrial input,” he said. “Our partnership with Unilever is another example of how we put our students first, ensuring that they get an understanding of what it means to be a professional engineer from day one.”

Unilever’s advanced manufacturing centre and pilot plants manager Tom Gibbins said: “We’re delighted to have partnered with the University of Chester to offer the UK’s first chemical engineering degree apprenticeship and to be able to support Michael with the first step in his career.

“We understand the benefit in supporting young future talent with their transition into work, and in the coming years we will be looking for more apprentices to join us in making a sustainable difference.”

Bill Harper, IChemE immediate past vice-president for qualifications, has spent the last two years working with the university on the apprenticeship. He said: “The IChemE is delighted that the university has got the Process/Plant Engineer Degree Apprenticeship off the ground and I look forward to working with the university to move this forward.”

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