Shona McCrea is successfully combining full-time work at Renfrewshire Council and university study thanks to University of the West of Scotland’s Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) in Civil Engineering.
By combining academic learning with real-time practical experience in the workplace, the University’s GA programmes deliver industry-relevant skills and qualifications. GAs are developed in partnership with employers to ensure that the learning is relevant to industry and that apprentices can apply their learning in the workplace immediately.
The GA in Civil Engineering at UWS enables apprentices to earn a BEng Honours degree designed by industry while in full-time paid employment. Apprentices are awarded academic credit for gaining industry relevant skills and experience putting their learning into professional practice straight away.
A GA in Civil Engineering at UWS provides a broad knowledge of core Civil Engineering subject areas including structural, geotechnical, water engineering, materials and hydraulics. It also equips apprentices with graduate attributes such as teamwork, critical thinking and creativity. Additionally, it will provide knowledge of the latest trends in the application of digital technologies in construction such as laser scanning and thermography, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), sustainable development, and occupational health, safety, and well-being.
Shona McCrea, 20, who is in the first year of the GA and holds the full-time post of Trainee Technician, Environment & Infrastructure at Renfrewshire Council, said: “After leaving school I went straight to university to study psychology at UWS. It was a really enjoyable degree but after a couple of years I started to realise that I wanted to pursue a more practical and hands-on career that would allow me to work in both an office-based setting and out in the field. Throughout my time at school there was very little emphasis on Women in STEM and therefore the prospect of having a career in engineering was non-existent to me. After speaking to various family members who are in the field of engineering I realised that I wanted to study Civil Engineering and applied for the Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity at Renfrewshire Council.
If you are thinking about studying a GA programme you need to be able to prioritise your time as it can be challenging balancing a full-time job, studying, coursework, and your personal lifeShona McCrea
“At present, the GA is helping me understand the business and performance aspects of the construction industry and how this is relevant to the work I am part of at Renfrewshire Council.
“The GA programme will allow me to further my role and progress within Renfrewshire Council as I will be able to take on more responsibilities and have the knowledge needed to contribute to more technical aspects of a project.
“If you are thinking about studying a GA programme you need to be able to prioritise your time as it can be challenging balancing a full-time job, studying, coursework, and your personal life.
“An advantage of the GA programme is that you gain vital industry experience whilst working towards your degree. It also provides opportunities to see real world applications of the course content and help you gain a more thorough understanding of the subjects being taught.”
UWS is working in partnership with Skills Development Scotland to deliver its GA programmes, which have been developed in response to demand from industry. With three out of four employers in Scotland reporting critical skill shortages that are affecting their productivity and growth, added to the fact that more than 70% of Scottish employers think that job applicants lack technical, practical or job specific skills, GAs have never been more important.
Jamie McNelis, Supervisory Civil Engineer (Structures), Environment & Infrastructure at Renfrewshire Council, said: “Renfrewshire Council, like all employers, is keen to bring in fresh talent and Graduate Apprenticeships are the perfect fit. It makes sense to invest in our employees and give them the chance to work toward a degree in Civil Engineering while learning on the job and putting their studies into practice.
“GAs help us to support our employees to develop skills and knowledge that are directly relevant to their jobs. There is considered to be a skills gap within the engineering sector and GAs can allow us to attract and develop staff in key roles.
“Shona has brought a positive attitude and focused mindset into the office, which I believe has a knock-on effect on our own staff. She has showed herself to be willing to learn and through her studies can bring new ideas in the future.
“Our experienced staff have been able to delegate tasks that allows Shona to learn and take responsibility, while passing on their knowledge. It also has allowed these employees to be more productive. By the time Shona has finished her GA she will not only be qualified but also have an understanding of her role within our department and experience of the industry and the workplace.”
GAs help us to support our employees to develop skills and knowledge that are directly relevant to their jobs. There is considered to be a skills gap within the engineering sector and GAs can allow us to attract and develop staff in key rolesJamie McNelis
The Graduate Apprenticeships offer a chance for apprentices to work with leading employers whilst studying for an Honours Degree at UWS. This GA in Civil Engineering is a Work Based Learning degree which is mostly delivered in the workplace, ensuring that the content is aligned to industry needs. Typically students spend one day per week at UWS, with the work and learning they do in their workplace making a significant contribution towards their degree.