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A Degree Apprenticeship has been set up between the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Unilever’s Port Sunlight Research & Development centre, where students can gain a degree while gaining real work experience.

Degree Apprentice Anna Olurunniji knows she will be very busy over the next four years, as she holds down an important role with Unilever Research & Development working as part of the team that leads the innovation for some of the firm’s biggest oral care brands, while studying part-time for a BEng degree in Chemical Engineering at the University.

The Degree Apprenticeship standard she is working on is the Science Industry Process and Plant Engineer job role (SIPPE).

Degree apprenticeships provide a new model for talented young engineers to kickstart their careers. Although Anna has a busy student life, she is certainly happy she has chosen this route.

Anna said: “I'm really excited to be doing this Apprenticeship alongside my role in Unilever Research & Development, where I work to develop new technologies to be used in the personal and beauty care industry.

“I became an apprentice because the idea of being able to go to university and at the same time practically apply what I was learning really appealed to me. Unilever provides me with unique opportunities and a variety of experience. I really look forward to what I will be able to achieve in the future with Unilever during my Apprenticeship.”

Steve Wilkinson, Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester and Programme Leader for SIPPE at Chester, said: “It’s great to see degree apprenticeships continue to gain traction, as employers increasingly see the benefits of recruiting excellent school leavers and upskilling existing employees to degree level. The SIPPE Degree Apprenticeship standard was developed by employers in the process industries to increase the supply of much-needed graduate skills.

“We are proud to partner with key employers in our region such as Unilever, who have five apprentices at Chester, with more in the pipeline. We’d love to see more employers taking advantage of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy and opening their businesses to apprentices. who, in turn, benefit their business.

Unilever Process Research Manager, Dr Jon O’Sullivan, added: “The Chemical Engineering apprenticeship scheme at the University of Chester is an excellent programme that fosters the next generation of chemical engineering skills and leaders. The R&D site here in Port Sunlight is one of Unilever’s leading innovation hubs, and we know we benefit hugely from apprenticeships and the skills and fresh perspective they bring to ours teams.

Unilever has had a long-standing commitment to supporting young people to get into work, and we’re especially proud to be partnering with the University of Chester so we can directly support more young people in our local community.”

There is one more organisation that is keeping an interested eye on Anna’s progress, the Association for Black Engineers (AFBE).

AFBE-UK Chairperson Dr Nike Folayan MBE, added: “Promoting the education and practice of engineering by black and minority ethnic females is a key part of our mission. We are so excited to be in touch with Anna as her career develops.”


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