China trip underlines opportunities for apprentices

A former apprentice from Middlesbrough College Group’s TTE division spent four weeks working in China as part of her successful apprenticeship with a biotechnology company.

Lexie Scott worked at a laboratory in Changshou in the Chongqing province of western China as part of her two-year apprenticeship with Redcar-based Calysta.

The 21-year-old completed her apprenticeship in November 2023 and is now a full-time laboratory assistant at Calysta and says the opportunity shows how apprenticeships can literally open up a world of possibilities.

Lexie, who is from Whitby, explained: “I enjoyed science since my GCSEs and did well in exams so I took that into doing A-levels.

“After finishing at school, I was looking for an apprenticeship as I was keen to get into work, but I didn’t realise these kind of things were available.

“I thought that working somewhere like Calysta would be something different and something unusual compared to other opportunities out there.”

Lexie split her time between working at Calysta, which is based on the Wilton Centre at Redcar, and Middlesbrough College Group’s TTE centre, spending four days in the workplace and one day a week in college.

Her workplace activities centred on sample analysis and other lab-based work while at College, Lexie completed a number of different academic units covering subjects including Biology and Chemistry.

The opportunity to work out in China came towards the end of Lexie’s apprenticeship.

She explained: “It was mentioned on site and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what it was like in China and that I might not get another chance like it.

“We were working in the labs and helping the scientists there with sample analysis. The machines they use are pretty much the same as ours but the work culture is completely different.

“It was sometimes challenging, particularly with the language barrier, but it was really interesting and I did get time to do some sightseeing in China while I was over there.”

The facility where Lexie worked is part of a joint venture between French company Adisseo and Calysta, which works to create sustainable protein ingredients for fish and animal feed.

The Chinese facility works to produce a new kind of fish food for the aquaculture market. Lexie’s work at the plant included assisting in the laboratory analysis of the product before it was packaged up and sent out for sale.

Calum McNerney, fermentation scientist at Calysta and Lexie’s supervisor, said: “Lexie worked on a very important part of the product process – it is vital to get the right data and statistics from the analysis.

“I was very happy with the work which Lexie did over there. I was only there for a couple of days myself but from what I heard, she did a great job and really took it all in her stride.

“Lexie was the first apprentice we had from TTE and it has been an extremely good experience and she’s now a fully fledged member of staff.”

Lexie said her experiences on her apprenticeship would make her recommend the apprenticeship route to others.

She said: “I have really enjoyed it. It is something really different which gives you opportunities to broaden and deepen your skills and in my case it gave me the opportunity to find out what work is like in a different country.”

Middlesbrough College Group works with around 2,000 apprentices every year in over 100 different areas via its TTE Technical and Northern Skills divisions.