Past apprentices reflect on the value of this route into engineering and what might prevent people from going for it.
National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is the best time to reflect on how this career route can help individuals develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
Equipping young people everywhere with future-ready skills, apprenticeships are an excellent option for those looking for hands-on experience, real-life learning opportunities and a stable income.
This year’s NAW theme is ‘Skills for Life’, which apprentices are sure to gain over the course of their work experience and study.
However, being an apprentice is much more than working for four days and studying for one, says Joe McGilley, apprentice highways engineer at AECOM.
“Civil engineering apprenticeships provide that perfect doorway into the industry allowing you to directly apply and practice all of your learnings, whichever level of study you take.
“This is all with the added guidance and support of those you share the workplace with. It provides you with invaluable work experience and employability skills, together with a degree which of course is gained in that debt-free manner.”
‘Apprenticeships are the new craze’
The ICE wants to help spread the message of how valuable civil engineering apprenticeships can be.
India Jean-Jacques, former apprentice at WSP, says: “In a job market where experience is becoming increasingly sought after (even when traditional university students are achieving firsts), apprenticeships are the new craze.”
“You can gain that experience, learn and earn a competitive wage in many cases.”
Bethany Holroyd, who started her apprenticeship in 2011, points out that business also have a lot to gain from launching apprenticeships.
“I saw first-hand, as an apprentice, the work being done behind the scenes and the recognition apprentices were getting for their hard work.
“Equally I noticed the benefits they offered businesses in the way of being ‘home grown’ and learning job specific information for real life scenarios rather than coming from university with very little experience,’ says Bethany, who’s now at WSP as a UK health and safety advisor.
Mark Naysmith, CEO of WSP’s UK & EMEA region, provides a leadership perspective: “Nurturing your own talent helps leaders delegate and impart knowledge, improves business productivity, benefits culture, improves staff morale and provides a better quality of service to clients.
“As such, my advocacy for investment in early career professionals and affirming the vital role they play in the success of any organisation could not be stronger,” he says.
‘We need to do more’
Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2, started his career as a technician apprentice on the London Underground.
He says that despite a pipeline of major infrastructure projects to work in the last 10-20 years, “we need to do more to truly inspire young people about the potential career opportunities and the value and importance of STEM subjects.”
This is why it’s so important that those already involved in civil engineering apprenticeships spread awareness about the valuable insights they gain and help encourage more young people into this route.
“One of the main issues leading to a lack of apprentices entering the industry is that many young people don’t understand what civil engineering actually is or what it involves,” says Will Wood, former apprentice at Seymour Civil Engineering.
To help combat this, the ICE offers help and advice on apprenticeships. It has also created ICE Inspire, an interactive 360° website where people can explore what being a civil engineer is all about.
With all of this in mind, spreading awareness on apprenticeships shouldn’t only be done during National Apprenticeship Week. Instead, it should be a constant reminder that to gain ‘Skills for Life’, hands-on experience is needed.
The ICE hopes this week has given young people a clearer idea of what civil engineering apprenticeships entail and how being part of an industry that helps shape the world makes a tangible difference to people’s lives.