Are apprenticeships the future of the construction industry?

With the ever-rising costs of university, apprenticeships were already on the rise as students looked for alternative ways to shape a career.

However, with the normal university experience being changed by the current climate of online working and socially distancing from your friends and course mates, even more people are considering an apprenticeship.

At the beginning of last year, some 73.9% of UK graduates were employed in a professional role, with this number expected to drop even further as a result of the challenging job market graduates are currently faced with.

The opportunity to earn while you learn is appealing to trainees and being able to engage and employ a younger generation as well as bridge the skills gap is a benefit to employers – especially within the construction industry.

Raj Somal, director at Dice – a Nottingham-based civil and structural engineering design consultancy – said: “When we established the company in 2018, we always knew we wanted to produce top engineers. The best way to do this is through internal development, so encouraging more young people – particularly women – into the industry is key.

“Therefore, the first member of staff we took on was an apprentice with Nottingham Trent University (NTU). With the business going from strength to strength, we took on a second apprentice the following year and both members of the team have surpassed all of our expectations.

“Given how dedicated we have always been to development and to employing apprentices, we were over the moon to learn we were shortlisted for the NTU Apprentice Employer of the Year award. It’s a testament to our commitment to supporting the next generation of engineers and a wonderful recognition of what we have done so far.”

One of the apprentices at Dice, Husna Gul, initially applied to university after completing her A-levels in maths, physics, and chemistry, but withdrew after discovering the benefits of the apprenticeship route.

She said: “Being the eldest child in the family, my parents were worried when I told them I didn’t want to take the ‘traditional’ university route. However, after they looked into degree apprenticeships, they soon realised this was the right path for me and have been incredibly supportive of my decision.

“I’ve picked up a huge amount of knowledge in such a short space of time. When I first started, I could never have imagined I’d be able to do the kind of jobs I’m doing now, and that’s a testament to both Dice and NTU for creating this new pathway into the industry.”

Laura, whose interest in engineering began at an early age due to an emphasis on Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects at school, said: “I’ve had lots of support and have been provided with plenty of opportunities to stand out. This apprenticeship has given me a better understanding than learning in a classroom environment alone.”

According to Women’s Engineering Society (WES) only 12% of all engineers are women. This is another way in which Dice is challenging the status quo.

Raj added: “In past roles, we’ve experienced non-diverse teams and it doesn’t necessarily provide the best working environment, so we aim to buck the trend. 50% of our workforce are women and 50% are from an ethnic minority. The most important thing for us when starting the business was to create a positive place to work that is inclusive for everyone.

“We have therefore developed a bespoke development programme for each apprentice to ensure they are reaching their KPIs, the key targets from their course and ensuring it aligns with their ICE professional development requirements. We also have a number of experienced female engineers within the team that our apprentices can turn to and learn from.

“I think that apprenticeships really are the future for many young people considering their options.”