Calum Robertson, an Assistant Engineer at Dundee City Council, says his apprenticeship has been the key in his career development and now he wants to encourage others to follow and see what they can achieve.
I have been in the civil engineering industry for 6 years and I have enjoyed every moment. I have worked on a range of projects from road safety design, cycling infrastructure to structural design.
I work in a structural engineering team within local government. Apprenticeships have been key in my career and development and I want to encourage others to follow and see what they can achieve.
A career turnaround
At the age of 17 I left high school to study psychology. After 3 lectures I knew this was not the career for me. I have always been interested in construction from a young age, from visiting major cities I wondered If I would ever gain the opportunity to engineer construction projects.
The opportunity appeared when Dundee City Council advertised for modern apprentices in the Roads & Transportation team in 2013 and I was successful in my application. I gained an HNC in civil engineering and permanent employment with the local authority in 2015. I have continued to progress ever since. I gained a transfer to the Bridges & Structures team in 2018 and developed my career even further.
Skills Development Scotland
Skills Development Scotland offered me the opportunity in 2017 to become one of the first graduate apprentices at the University of Dundee to study Civil Engineering at BEng level. I haven’t looked back since. This course has helped me gain a massive understanding of the work I undertake by learning the theory in detail.
Both modern and graduate apprenticeships were the right route for me as it allows me to earn a salary whilst undertaking the qualification. Student debt is non-existent for many apprentices. But the main factor is it allows me to apply the theory I am learning and that is key for engineers to understand. It's very well learning from a whiteboard but applying the theory, designing the theory and seeing your designed theory in construction brings it all together. That’s the most exciting part of apprenticeships, seeing your theory into the finished product.
A work based learning module
The University of Dundee Graduate Apprenticeship course implements a work-based learning module. Where the students must show and reflect on how they have met certain ICE attributes within their academic apprenticeship year. This module aided me in achieving my EngTech qualification with the Engineering Council and become a member of the ICE in 2019. This was a massive achievement in my career.
The importance of a mentor
All cannot be achieved however without the help of a work mentor. My mentor aligns me with the correct workload that relates to the theory I am learning at university. The various workloads a structural engineer has in local authority allows for me to experience a range of projects. For instance, when I began to study soil mechanics, my mentor issued me with a retaining wall to design and project manage to stop footpath erosion from a dighty burn. This allows me to apply the engineering theory taught from the university and implement in the industry.
Aspiring to be the best
I aspire to become the best civil engineer I can be and hopefully gain the opportunity to make my mark on the world. My ultimate target is to become a chartered engineer with the ICE.
I want to continue to encourage young people to get involved in all forms of engineering apprenticeships. Learn the industry and the educational knowledge in parallel.
I feel that young people are pressured into attending University following completion of high school, but this shouldn’t be the norm. Apprenticeships allow young people to make their mark on industries while learning ‘on the job’. Apprentices will be better qualified for future employment given the years of industry experience they will have. I’d highly encourage young people to seriously consider an apprenticeship, learn the knowledge, apply the knowledge and see your theory into the finished product.