Scott is a Structural Technician and fourth-year degree apprentice within our team in Birmingham. Despite struggling with his grades at A-Level, he has developed a love and respect for engineering which has now put him at the top of his class. Here he tells us why an apprenticeship was the key to his success and offers his top tip when applying for a job.
I was just your regular student. School was a good laugh, but I could have tried a bit harder. My strongest subjects were technical ones, like maths, resistant materials and science, but I also had a knack for languages. I never really had a particular career in mind growing up because I’ve always been my own person, wanting to make my own path, without paying too much attention to what those around me are doing. This only made it harder when it came to choosing a job, so when I finished my GCSEs, I thought I’d buy myself some time by going into A-Levels.
Finding my way
I knew at the beginning that an apprenticeship was the route for me, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. The problem was that going into A-Levels without a clear goal to work towards meant I didn’t have the drive to apply myself as best I could. Result? I got terrible grades. Twice!
Engineering wasn’t something that initially jumped out at me. I didn’t have anyone’s footsteps to follow in and instead considered everything from accounting to the RAF, but I was always drawn back to automotive and aerospace engineering. I think it was mainly because I enjoyed the problem-solving aspects and real-world mathematics application, but when I delved deeper, I was disappointed with how much of a small part you play in their design or maintenance.
I stumbled across structural engineering and was fascinated by how broad an engineer’s skills need to be; a knowledge of everything from complex mathematical and computational analysis, to materials, earth sciences, sustainability, finances, health and safety etc. is all needed and applied. I personally think this makes it one of the most wide-reaching careers around. What’s even better is that it’s one of the few industry’s where there is a real opportunity to progress after the apprenticeship, with regular opportunities to continue your studies and progress up the ranks, this is what really sold it to me.
A passion for engineering
I actually started my apprenticeship at another consultancy before moving to Waterman in 2018, after being approached by an ex-colleague of mine. I have to say, it immediately felt like home. My co-workers are a great group of people and every one of them is passionate about what they do. It gives the office a real buzz and it’s rubbed off on me too. It’s here that I’ve found my love for engineering.
One of the challenges of starting an apprenticeship was, for me, accepting that it’s longer than a conventional university degree. However, in the time that I’ve undertaken my apprenticeship, this has reduced. For what is a five year route through university now only takes six years through an apprenticeship. On top of this, it can put you in a much more useful position than an equivalent new graduate.
In this industry you are given a lot of responsibility from the start. It’s more than likely you’ll be producing drawings and models for live projects early on in your apprenticeship, meaning everything you do can impact its cost, quality and time. Plus, the information can be seen by hundreds of people from the client to the end tenants, so there is a lot of pressure to make sure it’s correct. In structures in particular, it can be the difference between a building standing up or falling down. It’s serious business, but also something to be very proud of!
Taking hold of my future
I would have to say my biggest achievement has been in the progress I have made to where I am today. I left school as a shy 16-year-old, applying for the same jobs as so many others who were much more confident than myself. Since starting my apprenticeship, I’ve gained a lot of confidence and have gone from poor AS-Levels to the highest grades possible in each of the qualifications I have undertaken.
Apprenticeships have shown me that your limits only depend on how hard you are willing to work for something.
As for what the future holds for me, I’ll still be working in structures, that’s for sure. I’m hoping to be chartered in the next five years but after that I’ll have to see where life takes me. I know that at Waterman, I’ve been given a great start.
To those who think they would like to do an apprenticeship but fear missing out by not going to university, don’t! I wouldn’t change what I’ve done for the world, and in fact, I’ve had lots of people tell me they wish they’d done the same in hindsight.
Scott’s top tip when applying for an apprenticeship
When looking at job profiles online, take them with a pinch of salt. They are often very generic and not representative of what a job actually entails. Instead, I recommend digging a bit further into the job titles and responsibilities, or even talk to someone in the industry. Local apprenticeship advisors will be able to point you in the direction of friendly professionals who will be able to give you some honest advice on what you can expect in the job you are looking at.