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, Samuel Baillie (Cities Consultant, Mott MacDonald) highlights the key role that apprenticeships have played in developing his career to date and provides his thoughts on their future.
In 2016 I started a Level 3 (A level equivalent) Civil Engineering Apprenticeship working for Mott MacDonald, I was 21 and had been out of education for several years having left school not long after completing my GCSEs. At the time, I didn’t know much about the sector, but I was certain that I wanted to further my education and gain experience in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) field.
It took me two years to complete the Level 3 qualification by attending college one day a week. This period was fundamental to my career progression and helped prepare me for entering into higher education, something that I hadn’t previously aspired to. I also benefited from some good fortune as completing this course coincided with the development of Degree Level Apprenticeships (Level 6) in Engineering. In 2018 I was successfully enrolled on a Civil and Infrastructure Engineering Degree at the University of Warwick and in January of 2024, I graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree. I was also really proud to receive the Head of School Award for Outstanding Performance in Final Year.
In recent years, apprenticeships and how they are perceived have changed for the better, they are now seen as viable and attractive to conventionally high-performing students seeking a debt-free University experience. Naturally, however, as opportunities become more attractive, they also become more competitive and so I think there’s an increasing need for us, as an industry, to ensure that we continue to hire and nurture people from a variety of economic and social backgrounds.
This is especially relevant for those growing up in the West Midlands as some of the highest levels of childhood poverty are experienced within our region, ranking 40th out of the 41 UK regions (Social Mobility Commission, 2021). This is compounded when looking at socio-cultural advantage in the region, as when considering the distribution of parental education and occupation as well as employment opportunities for young people, the West Midlands also finds itself in the lowest 20% (Social Mobility Commission, 2021).
We are however uniquely placed to help solve this problem as the region is a hub of research, development and prospects. Birmingham specifically is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years (Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2023) with the focus on the transition to Net Zero and the drive towards Industrialised Construction offering opportunities across some of the region’s high-value sectors, including Manufacturing and other Professional Services roles.
I believe that focusing on Level 3 Apprenticeships, specifically in Civil Engineering, is fundamental to achieving this. By bringing people into the industry who otherwise would not continue on to A Levels and University, we can greatly improve social mobility and aspiration levels in the West Midlands. This in turn, helps provide equitable access to some of our most desirable roles.
Giving the best jobs to the highest-performing people does make financial sense. However, widening our net and getting people into the industry who have not yet proven themselves academically will help us to improve our social impact and ensure that we aren’t missing out on some of the untapped potential within the region.
ABOUT OUR AUTHOR:
Sam is a Civil Engineer and Cities Consultant with 7 years of experience working on transportation and multidisciplinary urban development projects. He has gained exposure to a wide variety of technical disciplines whilst working at Mott MacDonald, working for private and public sector clients spanning the project development lifecycle.
He has significant project experience on transport, water, healthcare and defence projects, utilising an industrialised construction approach that provides improved social, economic and environmental outcomes.
He is a professionally qualified Engineering Technician and Quest Technician Scholar working towards IEng status with the Institution of Civil Engineers.