I started my career in science by applying for an Apprenticeship at Fera, straight out of secondary school at 16. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, just that I had a passion for science.
I decided that an apprenticeship was the way for me - with a bit of pressure from my parents! - as I didn’t want to adopt the student lifestyle that university offers as well as the debt. It also means that I am in a position to secure a mortgage and buy a house, unlike many of my peers.
I am currently an assistant scientist in the Centre for Chemical Safety and Stewardship. The team I work in determines the effects of chemicals on the environment, particularly pesticides and veterinary medicines. The team is made up of many different disciplines from the scientists themselves to I.T. and adminstration staff.
The team’s main aim is to determine what happens to a chemical once it has been released into the environment - this can be by directly spraying pesticides on a field or by using manure that is from an animal that has been given a particular medicine.
The team figures out where a chemical goes and what it does once it has been introduced into the environment. We don’t just investigate the negative effects of chemicals, some can be positive too.
Once the team has found this out, we also measure how the chemical interacts with the living organisms it comes into contact with from the smallest of bacteria to shrimp and bees.
My role is to help determine the effects chemicals have on organisms that live in water, such as algae and freshwater shrimp - I won’t bore you with a massive list of beasties!
We measure how a chemical has an effect on a particular species by monitoring how it affects its growth, development and/or reproduction. If a chemical has a significant effect on any animal it can cause serious damage to the health of the environment.
The best piece of advice I would give a young person starting their career, whatever that may be, would be to find something that you are really passionate about - for me it was science. Then, seriously consider what you want to do, conduct soe research into whether an apprenticeship offers something for you.
I found that apprenticeships were not that well advertised. The most obvious path seemed to be to go to college then onto university, but I ended up bypassing most of this, and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked back since.
Completing an apprenticeship has allowed me to develop skills and gain knowledge that most university leavers or even PhD students don’t have.
Joseph Turton is a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group and an assistant scientist at the Food and Environment Research Agency in Sand Hutton near York.
Supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network and the Yorkshire Veterinary Society, the Future Farmers of Yorkshire is a social and informative organisation that brings together like-minded farmers, vets and industry supporters.