National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March 2019) is a useful reminder to the infrastructure industry of the valuable pipeline of future technicians and engineers, and the crucial role established civil engineers have to play as their mentors.
I’d be hard-pressed to think of many issues in our profession that are more deserving of a profile-raising ‘week’ than apprenticeships. This week has featured a great deal of media activity and celebration, but I take real pleasure from seeing the day-to-day revitalisation and resurgence in apprenticeships now in train across the UK.
While the headlines are dominated with political uncertainty, the civil engineering profession is getting on and delivering, with tremendous progress in ensuring a healthy pipeline of new entrants and qualified technicians and engineers. The last 12 months has seen the profession collaborating in new ways to make the most of the challenges and opportunities presented to us.
In my day-to-day activity, but also having the honour of judging the New Civil Engineer (NCE) Graduate & Apprentice of the Year Awards, hosted in partnership with ICE, I never fail to be impressed by the standard of new entrants to the profession, serving as a powerful reminder that the future is in very safe hands.
It's also useful to remember that apprentices and graduates, the new entrants to the profession, are often the ‘disrupters’, driving the digital revolution within their own organisations.
The growth of civil engineering apprenticeships
With apprenticeship rollout high on all our agendas, I must highlight and pay tribute to employer, college, university and ICE colleagues who’ve been working relentlessly in recent months (and years) to ensure that the opportunities presented by the new apprenticeship levy and standards are realised.
Civil engineering apprenticeship provision, leading to ICE professional qualification and a rewarding career, is expanding rapidly.
In addition to visits to employers, colleges and universities in support of technicians, graduates and experienced engineers aspiring to ICE membership, our membership teams have been supporting those developing and entering apprenticeship programmes, and the demand is growing.
We have a strong history of mentoring, which must continue
The evolution of the apprenticeship agenda once again brings into sharp focus our profession’s fine history of mentoring and the passing of knowledge from experienced professionals to the next generation, and the need is growing.
Whether as an approved supervising civil engineer, delegated engineer or mentor under an approved ICE programme, or informally, the need for additional capacity and effective mentoring has never been greater. A recent ICE membership survey highlighted that one of the key enablers in progression towards professional qualification is effective mentoring.
Experienced professionals should never underestimate just how much wisdom and knowledge they can offer. Time will always be a barrier, but can we collectively afford to not develop the next generation?
How you can help
Mentors routinely report just how rewarding they find working with young professionals, not forgetting the CPD value to all involved. Additionally, the rise of ‘reverse-mentoring’ is helping experienced professionals learn new skills and challenge accepted thinking.
All those entering the profession, whether via an apprenticeship or other route, will require and benefit from mentoring, irrespective of the mechanism, the skills and benefits remain the same.
Our institution has a proud, 200-year history of developing new talent, and the need now is as great as ever to secure the pipeline of future skills.
This week, let’s celebrate the achievements of civil engineering apprentices and their mentors, past, present and future and shout about the diverse and rewarding career that is civil engineering.