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Mark McLachlan, Digital and Technology Master Degree Apprentice at Pilkington - NSG Group

Mark McLachlan

Manchester Met is one of the UK's leading providers of degree apprenticeships with a proven record of success. With a varied range of programmes offered to help businesses upskill their current talent or attract skilled apprentices to grow their business, we are an Ofsted Grade 1 Outstanding provider and the top-rated university for degree apprenticeships*

Why did you choose to join the Digital and Technology Solutions Masters Degree Apprenticeship?

I choose the Digital and Technology Solutions Masters Degree Apprenticeship because I have worked in Industry for over thirty years. My role has continued to evolve from electrical engineering to information systems and, more recently, Industry 4.0 and machine learning. When an opportunity to study for a masters degree apprenticeship arose, I decided to grab it with both hands. 

It aligned well with my career development and my company’s digital transformation strategy. The programme is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to advance their career in the technology sector.

How do you manage working full-time while studying part-time for a degree?

The course requires a substantial commitment of time and effort, which shouldn’t be underestimated. I sometimes find it challenging to balance the workload with a busy full-time job and home life. The key to success is organisation, organisation, organisation! Setting clear targets and sticking to them helps me remain focused and keep pace with the work. 

The classroom learning format is organised into three-day blocks each month, providing a good mix of in-class assignments and self-learning. Achieving academic goals while working full-time is possible with the right mindset, good organisation, and planning.

How has the masters degree apprenticeship contributed to your growth in your current role?

The apprenticeship has enabled me to network with professionals across diverse industries and commerce, facilitating insightful discussions regarding the triumphs and obstacles associated with digitalisation. It has allowed me time to focus on and critically analyse my career aspirations. 

Since embarking on my degree apprenticeship, I have been appointed as Industry 4.0 lead resulting in a promotion to a higher grade, a principal technologist. A role that involves developing innovative digital solutions and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to solve the complex problems my organisation faces.

The decision to promote me was supported by my pursuit of a masters degree apprenticeship, which has enriched my knowledge, skills, and self-assurance, ultimately making me more valuable in contributing to my company's overall success.

How has your experience studying at Manchester Met been?

I chose Manchester Metropolitan University because of its reputation for providing quality degree apprenticeships. I also studied for my first degree in electronic engineering at the Manchester Met in the 1990s.

I have met many knowledgeable and interesting people, including fellow students and university tutors, with whom I hope to maintain contact after the course ends. 

Mostly, I have been impressed with the quality of the teaching and training materials. The university provides a wide range of support functions. At the start of the degree, I found attending several study skills courses, including critical thinking and academic writing, particularly helpful.

What do you hope to do after you complete your masters?

I plan to use the knowledge and skills from the masters degree apprenticeship to build and develop a new data analytics team within my organisation. The team will use data analytics and machine learning to enhance our manufacturing efficiencies and help us to meet our decarbonisation targets in line with our digital transformation strategy. 

Ultimately, I aim to create a substantial and beneficial impact on the business by exploiting digital technology solutions to address complex challenges, drive efficiency, and enhance overall user experiences. I am excited about the opportunities ahead and committed to continuous learning and growth to achieve these ambitions.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for this apprenticeship?

I would advise anyone considering pursuing a masters degree apprenticeship to go for it. The course is stimulating and challenging and encourages critical thinking. I had some reservations initially due to a gap of more than twenty years after graduating with my first degree. However, any concerns were soon alleviated by the support provided by the university. 

Age should not be a barrier when contemplating the pursuit of a masters degree apprenticeship. The field of digital technology is constantly evolving, creating opportunities for professionals of all age groups to contribute and learn. I was delighted to discover students of all ages in my cohort, including those just starting their careers to some nearing the culmination of their professional journey. 

I would also suggest joining the voluntary study skills courses as they provide an excellent foundation for the course ahead. The course demands a significant investment in time and effort, and it is crucial not to undervalue or overlook these requirements.

Manchester Metropolitan University offers a number of undergraduate and postgraduate apprenticeships in several areas. Find out more here (

*RateMyApprenticeship Awards, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 

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