IChemE partners with University of Chester and employers to offer UK’s first chemical engineering degree apprenticeships

IChemE partners with University of Chester and employers to offer UK’s first chemical engineering degree apprenticeships

31st January 2019

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), the University of Chester Faculty of Science and Engineering, and major employers in the region have partnered together to offer the first degree apprenticeship in the UK. The BEng in Chemical Engineering at the University’s Thornton Science Park is currently accredited by IChemE; and the Institution is now working with Chester to ensure that the degree is accredited as part of the apprenticeship.

The new Science Industry Process/Plant Engineer degree apprenticeship has also been designed in consultation with major employers of chemical engineers in the North West. Unilever, the global consumer goods company, was the first employer in the UK to offer the apprenticeship.

The new degree apprenticeship has also been welcomed by the government’s Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, the Right Hon Anne Milton MP.

Michael Leary, who joined Unilever working in its Advanced Manufacturing Research and Development (R&D) Centre in Port Sunlight in October 2018, is the first to take part in this degree apprenticeship opportunity. While working as part of the pilot plant team, he is studying part time at the University of Chester for a BEng degree in Chemical Engineering. Michael, who has straight A grades in Maths, Chemistry and Biology A-levels, is paid by Unilever as a full-time employee during the apprenticeship, and, as with all degree apprenticeships, he does not pay any tuition fees.

Leary said:

“It’s a superb opportunity for me. I’m busy but really happy to be learning in both the University and workplace environment. The principles I get from my University studies are reinforced with real-life experience at Unilever, where I work closely with process development engineers, R&D scientists and pilot plant technicians.”

Professor Steve Wilkinson, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Michael and the other degree apprentices, and it fits perfectly with the Faculty of Science and Engineering’s ethos at Thornton Science Park, where we work hard to ensure that we produce industry-ready graduates.

“Our Department is only five years old and already it has an excellent reputation, with accreditation from IChemE achieved at the earliest opportunity. When we designed our courses from scratch in 2013, we built them around industrial input. Our partnership with Unilever is another great example of how we put our students first, ensuring that they get an understanding of what it means to be a professional engineer from day one.”

Tom Gibbins, AMC and Pilot Plants Manager at Unilever, said:

“We’re delighted to have partnered with the University of Chester to offer the UK’s first chemical engineering degree apprenticeship and to be able to support Michael with the first step in his career. At Unilever we understand the huge benefit in supporting young future talent with their transition into work, and in the coming years we will be looking for more enthusiastic apprentices to join us in making a sustainable difference.”

Welcoming the news, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, the Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, said:

“I am thrilled that the University of Chester and major employers across the region are collaborating to promote STEM subjects and help increase the number of chemical engineers in the North West. Apprenticeships driven by employers, rely on the imagination of the FE and HE sector to collaborate and help business and industry get the skills they need. It’s great to see one of the first chemical engineering degree apprenticeships get off the ground.”

Bill Harper is Immediate Past Vice-President Qualifications at IChemE and has spent the last two years working with the University of Chester on this particular apprenticeship model. He added:

“IChemE is delighted that the University of Chester has got the Process/Plant Engineer Degree Apprenticeship off the ground – and I look forward to working with the University to move this forward.”


From left to right: Chris Lewis, University of Chester Apprentice Learning Mentor; Professor Steve Wilkinson, Head of Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester; Michael Leary, Unilever Degree Apprentice; Tom Gibbins, Unilever Advanced Manufacturing Centre and Pilot Plants Manager; Bill Harper, IChemE Immediate Past Vice-President Qualifications.


University of Chester – Chemical Engineering Degree Apprenticeship


For more information please contact:

Tara Wilson, Head of Communications, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534454
e: twilson@icheme.org 

Rachael Fraser, Communications Executive, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534435
e: rfraser@icheme.org

Jayne Dodgson, Director of Corporate Communications, University of Chester
t: +44 (0)1244 511450

Nan Pickering, Communications Officer, University of Chester
t: +44 (0)1244 513335

Alex Williams, Senior Communications Officer, University of Chester
+44 (0)1244 511706

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical, biochemical and process engineering is the application of science, maths and economics in the process of turning raw materials into everyday, and more specialist, products. Professional chemical engineers design, construct and manage process operations all over the world. Oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, synthetic fibres and clean drinking water are just some of the products where chemical engineering plays a central role.


The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) advances chemical engineering's contribution worldwide for the benefit of society. We support the development of chemical engineering professionals and provide connections to a powerful network of around 37,000 members in 100 countries.

We support our members in applying their expertise and experience to make an influential contribution to solving major global challenges, and are the only organisation to award Chartered Chemical Engineer status and Professional Process Safety Engineer registration.

More information: www.icheme.org

University of Chester

The University of Chester, a Church of England institution founded in 1839, continues to be guided by Christian values and is justifiably proud of the open, inclusive and supportive environment that characterises the institution. The University welcomes students and staff of all faiths or none.

The University seeks to provide all its students and staff with the education, skills, support and motivation to enable them to develop as confident world citizens and successfully to serve and improve the global communities within which they live and work.

This Mission, which has helped shape our development and diversification, continues to actively inform its future planning and enrichment as a University.

More information: www1.chester.ac.uk/


Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 161,000 employees and generated sales of €53.7 billion in 2017. Over half (57%) of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum and Lynx.    

More information: www.unilever.co.uk