Apprenticeships come of age

The number of civil-engineering-related apprenticeships now on offer in the UK is growing, offering a real alternative route into the profession. ICE is fully supportive, says apprenticeship manager Richard Davis.

Apprenticeships now offer a real alternative route to membership of the ICE
Apprenticeships now offer a real alternative route to membership of the ICE
  • Updated: 02 December, 2019
  • Author: Richard Davis, Apprenticeship Manager

It is widely acknowledged that the engineering sector faces a skills shortage, and has struggled to attract the people the industry needs.. This perennial problem, along with the 2012 Richards Review (Richards, 2012), has driven apprenticeship reform and ultimately resulted in the introduction of several measures to raise quality and achieve the UK government target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

Apprenticeships have been rapidly expanded across the UK and are now widely accepted as an alternative path into the civil engineering profession. This training and study route will help reduce the skills shortfall and expand access.

There are differences in the apprenticeships being offered across the UK, but essentially all involve 80% workplace training and 20% off-the-job training, the latter being mainly provided by an external training provider. With this training mix, the apprentice can apply learning, share experiences and have ready access to experienced engineers from the start. They also qualify for free student membership with ICE and enjoy all the benefits that being part of a global civil engineering community brings.

ICE assessment

The new English Trailblazer apprenticeships now require an ‘end-point assessment’ to ensure quality and consistency, which tests the apprentices’ knowledge, skills and behaviours accumulated over the period of the apprenticeship. ICE is an end-point assessment organisation for two degree and three diploma-level apprenticeships leading to professional qualification at ‘IEng’ or ‘EngTech’ membership of ICE respectively.

ICE is also working with employers and universities to develop new apprenticeship standards. In Scotland, ICE is consulting with universities on the development of new graduate apprentice civil engineering programmes while continuing to support apprentices on existing programmes across the country.

In Wales, ICE is part of the Welsh Apprenticeship Alliance, supporting apprentices at the start of their training by planning their path to professional qualification through ICE and is also continuing to support Northern Ireland’s Work+ apprenticeship scheme.

New terminology

From the outset, the apprentice’s initial professional development (IPD) is taking place at the same time as their formal training and new terminology has been introduced. ICE is addressing this through the adaptation of existing tools, such as the IPD Online evidence recording system, and by introducing new resources to help apprentices’ journey to professional qualification.

ICE is engaging with and training its network of mentors in the ways of ‘knowledge, skills and behaviours’ rather than the more familiar ‘attributes’ that are evidenced to show a civil engineer’s knowledge and competency. It is also engaging with the training providers to coach them on professional qualification requirements.

Regardless of the variations in the formats of apprenticeships across the UK, ICE is working with employers, training providers and apprentices to assure standards within the profession and provide the best opportunities for professional qualification upon completion of an apprenticeship.

This article is based on the authors’ briefing article in the latest issue (172 CE4) of the ICE Civil Engineering journal.

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