Josie Rothera, Course Director for MSs Civil Engineering at Leeds Beckett University (and an Institute Route Panel Member for Construction)

#NationalApprenticeshipWeek is the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of all the ways that apprenticeships can add value to a sector. Josie Rothera, Course Director for MSs Civil Engineering at Leeds Beckett University (and an Institute Route Panel Member for Construction), has written about just that…

Back with a bang

It’s great to see apprenticeships are back with a ‘fired-up’ bang!

Since Leeds Beckett University became a Training Provider for Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeships in 2018, we’ve seen our numbers of apprentices more than double in one year.  I’m always in awe of the quality, determination and professionalism of the apprentices here – it’s a testament to the benefits that an apprenticeship and employer partnership can bring when it comes to learning.

Civil Engineering is just one of the apprenticeships on offer here, and the list is growing!  For businesses, the return on investment and skills advantages that a properly structured and delivered apprenticeship can offer will add value and maturity though the organisation. These apprentices are on the first step to acquiring new skills, knowledge and behaviours, that can engender new cultures of lifelong learning in workforces across all sectors.  We’re never too old to learn new tricks!

Addressing the gaps

And while I think about age, apprenticeships also contribute to another challenge we have – which is increasing the diversity of the workforce by encouraging more people to take roles in the industry where currently there are shortfalls of skills.

In 2019, 16% of construction employees were female, and 7% from BAME backgrounds (CITB, 2019), and other diverse groups such as those who are older than a typical apprentice or have disabilities could also find roles in the industry.  As apprenticeships gain popularity, recruitment strategies can be adapted to make sure that diversity plays a key role when considering applicants. This, in turn, will allow the industry to grow on a more inclusive basis.

My role at the Institute

I recently joined the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education as a Construction Route Panel member to be part of a wider, employer-led initiative that really questions what skills are needed for roles in our industry.  It’s absolutely fantastic to see and speak to people that are passionate about making sure that there are choices to support all abilities, and end with a role which might just be that stepping stone that will inspire and motivate for a long time yet.

To explain more about the apprenticeship offer and the benefits, I’ve put together some answers to the questions that I often get asked:

What’s the context?

 There are some very clear facts to consider:

  • Fact: getting an education is not cheap!
  • Fact: populations are growing
  • Fact: the built environment needs adapting and future resilience
  • Fact: innovation in technology will continue to outpace the built environment

Why is doing an apprenticeship so appealing?

To put it simply, you get an education and learn on the job, and most importantly get paid a competitive salary with a transparent pay structure as you progress.

You also get a team of mentors to support you, consisting of those who work with you daily, and those that will review your progress against the Apprenticeship Standard.

You will develop interpersonal skills, and from this will gain in confidence and better understanding of the importance of the built environment industry to the UK.

Finally, you can start your very important built environment network.  Those people that you will turn to time and time again for technical or professional guidance as your go through your career.

The Construction 2025 Report (2013) also gave four targets for the industry, and two of these can be mapped to the benefits of apprenticeships:

  • 33% lower costs – Apprenticeships offer a better Return on Investment (ROI) for organisations, as recruitment strategies can be enhanced, there is a better employee retention over a longer period, and staff development can be structured.
  • 50% faster delivery – the End Point Assessment of the Apprenticeship makes sure that there is a support network and an end to the process which is timebound and thereby guarantees delivery focus.

But who benefits?

Everyone benefits! The direct stakeholders for apprenticeships are the apprentices themselves, the team that they are working in, and the education establishment they are learning at – and the completion of the apprenticeship is positive to all these stakeholders. There are also benefits for the organisation that the apprentice is working for, along with Professional Body organisations and the wider industry sector.

Overall, winning at apprenticeships will contribute substantially at all levels in the industry – and it’s my hope they’ll soon become business as usual for all.

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