National Apprenticeship Week - what happens when your apprenticeship ends?
07 Feb 2023
Read on to discover where an apprenticeship can take you.
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National Highways offer a number of apprenticeship places; we also we work closely with our supply chain to ensure they offer opportunities for apprentices on the projects and maintenance they deliver on our behalf. Together we can offer a wide range of apprenticeships including civil engineering, scheme design, traffic management, construction, surveying, project administration and many more across all areas of the sector.
What happens after an apprenticeship ends? Joshua Singer, National Highways Integration Manager Major Projects, started as a highways apprentice at a local council. Ten years on, read how his apprenticeship shaped his career.
Having left school after sitting my GCSEs, I planned to continue full time education at A Level; I had a place at a college although like most people my age I had not settled on any specific career path.
Fast forward six months and through word of mouth, I heard about the local council apprenticeship programme. I wasn’t really enjoying A Levels, I wanted to get out and work, earn a living in a field I could get enthusiastic about, I also think I was burnt out from full time education. I knew I needed to think about a specialism, something with the scope to have a career if I was going to take a different route.
Maths and science had always come easy for me, so when I heard there was a Civil Engineering apprenticeship in the highways department, I did a bit of research. Like most people my age I had no idea what civil engineering involved and how much of it was going on around me daily. I liked the sound of it and so applied - the process itself was a valuable learning experience; it was rigorous with 400 applicants for 60 council apprenticeship places and only two of those were highways – I was over the moon when I was eventually offered a place on their four-year programme.
When I started, I spent one day a week at college to obtain my HNC – you must be dedicated to your studies and pass your exams to stay on the programme. The council then had me on a rotation, where you spend time working with and learning from different teams; I didn’t realise that there are so many disciplines in civils it’s not just about building huge structures. I started by working with Development Control, looking at large housing & retail developments to assess their impact on the road network, I also spent time with the Rights of Way Team – that gave me an insight into maintaining rights of access for walkers, cyclists & horse riders.
Eventually I joined Technology and Signals, and that’s where I ended up staying – I was offered a full-time post after 18 months on the apprenticeship programme. I learnt how to design traffic signal schemes and I experienced managing congestion from a control room, for example, by changing the sequence of lights at peak times to try and improve the publics commute home. There were also valuable life lessons; dealing with disgruntled customers while out on site doing your job was an eye-opener but it made me resilient and taught me how to keep calm whilst under pressure.
It was a fantastic place to start, and I still use a lot of that learning today. I met many engineers close to retirement age, and there are things I learnt from them that you can’t get access to at university; social skills, how to manage relationships with stakeholders and politicians, how budgets work and how to get the best value when dealing with public funds. Then there’s how to work with your peers, negotiate and take on board feedback – these are all life lessons I use every day.
Do I regret not going down the graduate path? No, because for me, an apprenticeship was the right path to take. I’m now 28, qualified, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and have ten years work experience and no student debt.
Following my time at the council, I became a Roads Design Engineer in the private sector, then a Project Manager. I’m back in the public sector after joining National Highways and I’m now an Integration Manager for Major Projects, working across multiple major infrastructure projects in Yorkshire and the Northeast. I have achieved a senior level at a relatively young age but I’m still learning and pushing forward.
I’m passionate and proud of what I do and much of that is down to the foundation and support I received from my apprenticeship; that includes my mentors, tutors at college and industry leaders keen to pass on their skills and knowledge. Another thing about apprenticeships, you meet a huge network of professionals; men and women who are potentially your next employer, mentor, or advocate. If an apprenticeship is right for you, don’t underestimate the value of keeping in touch with this valuable network even as you change employer or project – always keep those doors open because it’s the best way to keep learning.
For information about apprenticeships at National Highways visit https://careers.nationalhighways.co.uk/graduates-placements-and-apprenticeships/apprenticeships/