National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) takes place between 5 to 11 February 2024 and is an opportunity for the education and skills sector to celebrate the achievements of apprentices around the country and the positive impact they make to communities, businesses, and the wider economy.

In this article, Andrew Jinks (Regional Director – Midlands, National Highways) highlights the key role that apprenticeships have played in his career and how they are helping to shape the workforce of National Highways.

(February 2024)

On 8 August 1983 I started my working life as an apprentice, at the locomotive works near to where I lived. Last year, I celebrated 40 years in the transport industry and this week I hosted National Highways early talent conference in my capacity as regional operations director.

Joining British Rail as an apprentice fabricator and welding technician was the first step in my career. I’ve since experienced a wide range of roles in both the public and private sector, from strategy and planning, major projects delivery and sponsorship, maintenance and operations, engineering and commercial.

I doubt 16-year-old me would have believed I’d now be accountable for the safe and smooth running of the motorways and all-purpose trunk road in the Midlands. Responsible for complex assets and iconic landmarks such as Spaghetti Junction.

I would have laughed if you’d told me I’d have an annual budget of c£350m to invest in the operation, maintenance and renewal of the region’s strategic road network. And that I’d be leading a fantastic and dedicated team of more than 800, spanning a wide range of disciplines and professions including traffic officers, control room operators, engineers, project managers, inspectors and many more.

Arguably, the Midlands is the most strategically and economically significant road infrastructure nationwide. Our region serves not only its 10.8m population but connects all corners of the land and the freight and logistics sectors to seaports, airports and freeports.

In such a complex and important environment there are big challenges and big opportunities. Therefore, we need knowledge and experience, as well as new perspectives and fresh eyes, to challenge the status quo and spot things others have stopped seeing.

From September we aim to have five per cent, about 350, of National Highways employees to be early talent. This covers apprentices, graduates, summer interns and undergraduates and T Level students on industry placement.

More than 200 – a good many drawn from across the Midlands – attended our early talent conference this week at Millennium Point in Birmingham. The day was focused on asset management and not just the physical infrastructure but people and specifically the next generation of civil engineers, data analysts, project managers, environmental scientists and more.

National Highways chief executive Nick Harris set his annual challenge to this fledgling community and encouraged them to be bold, innovative – wild, even – in their thinking. To explore new frontiers and their application in a way only they can. To astound and illuminate the judging panel with radical thinking and fearless ambition. I look forward to hearing their ideas.

I’ve worked with apprentices throughout my career. They bring a unique energy into a team and act like sponges, soaking up the knowledge amassed by experienced colleagues around them. As people inevitably move on or retire, it’s an organic way of capturing valuable insight and intelligence and passing the baton on. This is why early talent is a key strand of our workforce planning.

Apprenticeships have gone in and out fashion over the years and it feels like they’re once again a positive choice for school leavers. I followed my own apprenticeship with night classes and part-time degree study to become a civil engineer. The rest of my story is, as it is for most of us, about working hard, taking opportunities, learning from others and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time.

I’m happy to chat with anyone about apprenticeships and how we make it work in the world of complex infrastructure.



National Highways is recruiting Level 3 apprenticeships now. From engineering to project management, customer service, construction, business administration and more, there are a range of apprenticeships at different levels based in the Midlands and across England. Click here to find out more.


Andrew Jinks has experience of working in a variety of roles within the UK transport infrastructure sector. This includes the roads industry with National Highways, as well as main line and underground rail. He has held a wide variety of senior leadership roles in areas such as strategy & planning, asset management, major projects delivery and sponsorship, manufacturing, engineering and commercial, in both public and private sector.

He played a key senior role on the highly complex West Coast Main Line Upgrade programme in the UK’s first rail Alliance arrangement and led London Underground to transform their asset management practices leading to achievement of the ISO 55000 standard for asset management, whilst also developing sponsorship capabilities to successfully deliver a multibillion-pound major capital enhancement and renewals programme. An active board member for the last 9 years at the Institute of Asset Management as well as qualified civil engineer and Chartered Project Professional.

Andrew joined National Highways in 2016 as Development & Sponsorship Director to bring in experience gained at Transport for London to introduce professional sponsorship to their large capital investment portfolio. After 4 years in Major Projects joined Operations – in 2020 – initially as Programme Director in the Operations Transformation Programme, to share asset and programme management experience. Became Regional Director for Midlands in June 2021, to manage operation, maintenance and renewals as well as supporting enhancement of one of the largest and most complex regions. The Midlands region covers a geography in the West from North Shropshire to Herefordshire and in the East across to Northamptonshire and up to North Lincolnshire. This includes the key routes of the M1 and M6 and other key parts of the UK’s Motorway and major A roads. The region encompasses 81 local authorities and 77 Constituency MP’s and is run by a 800 strong team of varying professions.

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