Global engineering firm Atkins – Member of the SNC Lavalin group, is seeing the benefit of work-based learning first-hand – with five University of the West of Scotland (UWS) Graduate Apprentices currently working from their Glasgow HQ.
Atkins has a long history of working with apprentices, who study towards a qualification alongside their day job. Three years ago, the firm took on its first Graduate Apprentices.
Graduate Apprenticeships provide work-based learning opportunities for new and existing employees up to degree level. They have been created in partnership with industry and the further and higher education sector. Apprentices work, get paid, and work towards a degree at the same time.
Gary Kinniburgh, Principal Engineer in Atkins’ transport division, says that Graduate Apprentices bring a lot to the business. He explains: “With the Graduate Apprenticeship programme, we’re getting access to intelligent people who want to learn, but we get the benefit of having them in doing a day job too.”
Erskine-based Marc Gordon, who is 23, and 17-year-old Abbi Currie (pictured below) from Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway are two of the current Atkins Graduate Apprentices, each working towards their Civil Engineering qualification with UWS.
Abbi explains: “Even at school, I liked applying what I was learning. “I liked work experience and being hands-on – which is why I looked at the Graduate Apprenticeship.”
For Marc, who started out with Atkins as a Modern Apprentice, it was a similar story. “I benefit more from on-the-job learning – putting the skills I learn at university into practice during the week really helps. It gives you a clear picture of how that applies. I like having the balance.”
Under normal circumstances, Abbi and Marc would both spend a day out of the office each week to attend lectures and tutorials at UWS’s Paisley campus, but since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve been working and learning online. As well as getting a day out each week to attend classes, Atkins give the apprentices five study days a year to use when they need them.
Marc is in the third year of his apprenticeship, while Abbi is in her first, having started with the company in September. Marc, with first-hand experience of the Graduate Apprenticeship, acts as Abbi’s mentor at work, acting as a point of contact for support as she works and studies.
“Marc being Abbi’s mentor made sense to me,” Gary adds. “He’s been with us for three-and-a-half years, and has a level of maturity having gone to college previously to complete his HNC. He’s very driven and he knows the business’s systems, and the apprentice system, inside out. It makes him a good mentor for Abbi.”
The Atkins Graduate Apprentices agree that the apprenticeship is providing a great starting point for their careers – and would recommend this route to anyone else contemplating their next steps in work and learning.
Abbi says: “The wage is a real benefit, but getting to apply what I’m learning too is great. And I’ll have all of this experience too once I’ve got my degree, I’ll feel at the same level as graduates.”
Marc (pictured below) adds: “With the industry we’re in, it’s predominantly based on experience to enable you to get your professional qualification. For me, going down this route, it’s allowing me to get a degree in the same timeframe and obtaining the experience, so it’s speeding up the process of getting professionally qualified as well.
“Atkins is a great company to work for too, because you have the opportunity to work in different areas of the business – from highways to structures. You get to see how different things work and what you enjoy early on, and you get to network and travel, which is brilliant at my age. The role gives you a lot of confidence.”
The education component of Graduate Apprenticeships are fully funded by the Scottish Government through Skills Development Scotland. It offers businesses the opportunity to attract new talent, like Abbi, or to upskill existing employees, like Marc.
Gary says that working with the Graduate Apprentices has been positive for him and his team – and he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other employers.
He says: “The Graduate Apprenticeship lets them see how hard they have to work in our line of work. It’s not a soft option. It’s interesting to see what the apprentices are learning at university too – and how it relates to our work. I think that’s a real benefit for us. It keeps us current.”
At UWS, Graduate Apprenticeships are offered in Civil Engineering, IT: Software Development, Engineering Design and Manufacture, Business Management and Early Learning and Childcare.
Fiona Kennedy, Graduate Apprenticeship Manager at UWS, said: “We’re now in our third year of working with Atkins, who really understand what Graduate Apprentices can bring to the business. They’re getting access to new talent who are gaining knowledge of core Civil Engineering subject areas alongside industry-relevant skills and hands-on practical experience.
“The apprentices are gaining degree-level, industry-relevant relevant training form experts in their field, both at UWS and in the workplace, making it a really effective option for any employer looking to develop their workforce. Abbi and Marc are shining examples of how beneficial Graduate Apprenticeships are.”
To find out more about the BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering Graduate Apprenticeship click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org