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Published: 14th October 2020

Cogent Skills & AstraZeneca apprentice volunteers at Addenbrooke’s hospital’s COVID-19 test facility

Angela Nwandu, a Cogent Skills Apprentice hosted at AstraZeneca completes four weeks volunteering at the PHE Covid-19 testing facility in Cambridge.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, with restrictions such as reduced building capacities making it impossible for companies to operate as usual. AstraZeneca therefore got creative and identified tasks for Angela that could be managed remotely. However, Angela decided to go one step better and lend a helping hand in a time of need, she decided to volunteer at a COVID-19 test facility in Cambridge. Angela spoke to us about her experience:

My apprenticeship at AstraZeneca has provided me the environment and opportunity for personal growth; in skills like problem solving and also building my confidence. I’ve learnt so much about science, technology and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as developing strong networks within AZ. I love working in the Labs and often joke about missing the Lab atmosphere, with the pungent aroma of cell culture. In my team, we work well together to deliver material supply requests; doing so with laughter and cakes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made supporting my team challenging.

Listening to the news and other people within my network, It was really evident that COVID-19 had put a lot of pressure on staff in Hospitals; especially in testing for the presence of the virus in patients. Many hospitals were requesting for volunteers and I thought it would be great to lend a helping hand. Speaking to my manager, he really encouraged me to go for it, he believed this was a great opportunity and wished we had thought of it earlier.

I spent 4 weeks working with Public health England supporting Addenbrooke’s hospital’s microbiology & virology Lab. I started at the latter stage of the process, in a containment level 2 Lab analysing swab or spit samples provided by patients. I had the opportunity to carryout PCR tests, confirming positive patient samples for COVID-19. I also worked in the reception were I was trained to handle all types of specimens from blood to urine. I identified and allocated urgent patients samples & containment level 3 samples, which could have been infectious. Often I was stunned by the colour and nature of the samples we received.

It was a really fantastic experience. I had the opportunity to work with many different scientists from genetics through to military backgrounds. I was able to experience the pace, technology and work load in a hospital. I met and connected with really lovely people; sharing ideas and supporting each other.

Overall, I’m really grateful for AZ and my team, as my experiences so far has been really valuable. I remember when I first started and all the goals I wanted to achieve; I’m really glad to see myself becoming more of the person I want to be.

I would like to recognize Angela’s achievement and contribution to society providing a valuable service during this pandemic… It is credit to Angela that she was proactive in suggesting volunteering at a Covid testing facility would be a worthwhile endeavour.


Steve Ruddock, AstraZeneca

As a result of Angela’s proactive attitude and desire to do something positive during an extremely tough time she has also been awarded a Cogent Skills ASPIRE Award.

We were fully supportive of Angela’s request to volunteer and worked closely with AstraZeneca to make it happen. Angela has clearly benefitted in many ways from this valuable and rewarding learning experience, and it’s fantastic to be able to showcase the inspiring story of an apprentice who has gone above and beyond, not only to help others, but also to make the most of a personal development opportunity, during this challenging pandemic.


Geoff Cox, Cogent Skills

Future Ready

Cogent Skills is sector based, working with companies from across the Science and Technology Industries embracing Life Sciences, Industrial Sciences and Nuclear.
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