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Joe Turton using cabbage in an experiment
Joe Turton

Joe believes that his apprenticeship at the Food and Environment Research Agency gave him the best possible start to a chemistry career.

At school, Joe had a brilliant science teacher that focused his interest towards chemistry and biology. Joe’s career choices were encouraged by his teacher’s vast enthusiasm and influential teaching in science. 

“I’ve been interested in science for as long as I can remember - I’ve always been curious about how stuff works and why. I’ve never really known what I wanted to do; I’m just interested in everything or nosy!”

Starting the journey

Joe Turton

At the age of 16, Joe decided to embark on his career as an apprentice. Joe’s decision not to continue with traditional education at university was based on seeing his friends and family’s experiences. Avoiding the debt and jumping straight into practical work, he secured an apprenticeship at the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).

Initially learning the basics of working in the laboratory, such as using a balance and pipette, Joe moved on to developing more technical skills such as extractions, maintaining a lab appropriately, culturing organisms and using a HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) machine.

“I recommend an apprenticeship to anyone. I believe the benefits of doing an apprenticeship are that you gain practical experience and knowledge of real life situations that are directly relevant to your career, that may not be gained in a classroom environment.”

Having the edge 

In 2014, Joe won our apprentice of the year award, but this isn’t his only achievement. He says “completing an apprenticeship has helped me start a career at 16 in an area where people are often in their late twenties; it’s given me an edge.”

With the skills he’s learnt during his apprenticeship, Joe has secured an assistant scientist position in the Centre for Chemical Safety and Stewardship at FERA. Using chemistry, biology and ecotoxicology, his role involves determining the effects of chemicals that are introduced into the environment on aquatic species. “I enjoy my job; the thing I enjoy most is that no project is the same. The theory behind them might be, but there are different challenges and problems to solve every time.”

Joe’s advice for anyone considering a career in chemistry is that it’s not what you’d expect.

“I expected a bunch of stereotypical scientists! I was surprised that it was nothing like that at all; I met a group of very down to earth people. If you are truly interested in a practical job in chemistry, I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship in science.”

Words by Jenny Lovell
Main image © The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright.
Published December 2014

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