My apprenticeship journey | From the Hartree Centre to CERN

Hi, my name is Will Hawthorn and I am finishing my Data Science apprenticeship at the STFC Hartree Centre. I am reflecting on the opportunities I have had like travelling to the CERN in Switzerland with the STFC apprenticeship programme.  

How it all started:

Like a lot of students, when I was coming to the end of my A-Levels I was unsure what my next step would be. I had heard about apprenticeships through career talks at my school and while looking on LinkedIn I found a posting for the position at the Hartree Centre. What attracted me to the Hartree Centre was the chance to work in an interdisciplinary environment helping organisations to explore and adopt emerging technologies. I started my apprenticeship in 2020, working towards a BSc in Data Science, whilst applying it to my role as a Business Analyst. Being able to learn and earn at the same time has been really rewarding. It has built my confidence in the workplace to be able to manage my workload and study needs. This has provided an excellent foundation to the start of my professional career.

My achievements:

My favourite part of being an apprentice was being able to immediately apply the skills and knowledge I was learning and getting to see the outcomes right away. I had the opportunity to attend a course on research methodologies, learning how to administer questionnaires and interviews. I was able to apply these skills straight away to create an interview plan for participants of our  Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) EXPLAIN training courses. I have also been learning Python, a coding language, which I have been using to analyse the data we collect and build a data pipeline and accompanying dashboard. This will help colleagues in the Hartree Centre by automatically collecting, storing, processing and visualising data from our training portal. It means that our team can ask the dashboard any questions about our course attendees by any data point like occupation or course taken. I have really enjoyed working on the HNCDI programme as it is enabling businesses and the public sector to explore and learn how to use new digital technologies. It has been exciting to develop my skills through my work and see how I can use what I have learned to support those around me. It is great to work somewhere my efforts are recognised: at the Daresbury Laboratory Apprenticeship Awards 2022 I was the joint recipient of the Peer Support Award for supporting apprentices across the campus.

Paul Vernon presenting the Peer Support Award to Will Hawthorn


I have had opportunities working at the Hartree Centre that I would not have had access to in a traditional learning environment. In the centre, you are surrounded by specialists who are already applying what you are learning in your degree to real-world environments. As I have started work on my final degree project, using clustering techniques and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse dialogue on social media platforms, I can turn to and ask Hartree Centre AI experts for their advice. There is also a study group for apprentices in the centre with people doing their undergraduate degrees like me, to those doing their PhDs where we discuss research papers and methods that have really helped my studies. There is a real culture of continuous learning and development with spotlight talks, seminars and webinars, I find it amazing because you are really encouraged to grow your skills and knowledge.

The apprentices touring the Large Magnet Facility at CERN
The apprentices learning about radioactive beams at ISOLDE

One of the best experiences I have had is being able to go to the CERN research facility in Switzerland as a part of the STFC apprenticeship programme. I was really lucky to be able to go as so many people apply each year. STFC is responsible for the UK’s involvement in CERN, and our tour guides were STFC apprentices who had graduated. It was really inspiring to see what previous apprentices had achieved and where you could end up working. We toured the Atlas Detector, which was central to the detection of the Higgs Boson in 2013, and the Large Magnet Facility, where magnets for the collider are maintained, learning about the physics and computer science that STFC is a part of at CERN.

What’s next:

I am really excited about what the future holds after my apprenticeship ends, currently I am working towards my end-point assessment. I can see how much I have grown over the last three years, and I have been really inspired by what I have learned at the Hartree Centre and from everyone around me. For the next stage of my career, I am interested in learning more about data science and how you can use it to support businesses and organisations all around you. If you are thinking about doing an apprenticeship, I would say go for it because it has been one of the best decisions I have made.


Join Newsletter

Provide your details to receive regular updates from the STFC Hartree Centre.