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Insights 6 myths about apprenticeships to stop believing now

Many misconceptions surround engineering apprenticeships. Some people feel university graduates have better prospects. Others think the qualifications you gain are not as good as degrees. Brad is here to blow the top six myths out of the water.

Brad began his engineering career as a junior engineering technician in 2004. Today he's an Associate Director at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. His current role is in business development and winning work, with his main responsibility as key account manager for one of our largest clients. He also ensures our organization invests in the right opportunities to position us for future projects. He's also responsible for supporting a practice of over 40 structural engineers while leading key and emerging client accounts for the Infrastructure business. Here is his career story:

"After completing my A-levels, I chose not to go to university. I wanted to get into the world of work, so I sought a career in the industry, following my interest in design and the built environment."

image of brad smiling in a suit

Myth 1. Apprentices just make tea and photocopie.

I started out in an admin and junior technician role, doing a part-time City & Guilds AutoCAD course, then my Construction in the Built Environment BTEC (Level 3 Apprenticeship). My studies really helped me understand the foundations of engineering for my day job. When I wasn't studying, I developed plans for environmental impact assessments and civil engineering schemes. This included working on-site, doing everything from bat, badger and tree data collection to borehole investigations and theodolite surveys.

Myth 2. Apprentices are poorly paid and marginalized

In 2007, I joined Atkins as a structural technician. As part of my employment, Atkins committed to covering all my training costs and paying a competitive salary which was incentivized on performance and achieving qualifications along the way.

I worked on various refurbishment schemes in leisure and commercial, draughting, attending construction sites, and inspecting works and concrete pours. A highlight was working on the Building Schools for the Future programme, at Shotton Hall. This was the first Atkins UK project we delivered using the Building Information Modelling software Revit. At the same time, I did my Higher National Diploma (Level 4 & 5 Apprenticeships) in Civil Engineering at Leeds Beckett University.

Myth 3. Apprenticeship qualifications are not as good as degrees

During the 2009 recession, I relocated within Atkins to work on a range of Defence projects in the Southeast. It was an excellent opportunity to gradually take on more responsibility, engaging with clients and contractors in engineering and project management roles. Plus, it was a career direction that I really enjoyed. I also completed my bachelor's degree in civil engineering (Level 6 Apprenticeship) at Kingston University, which was a real step up.

My degree allowed me to gain EngTech, my professional registration with the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), and I sat on its Applications and Professional Review Panel for five years. This really helped me expand my networks and gain experience in how prestigious institutions are run.

Myth 4. Apprenticeships are not a respected career path

A few years later, an opportunity came along to work in the Aviation market. The role was to deliver work packages for Heathrow, supporting its Asset Management programme. In this role, I broadened my design skills while taking a practical approach to solving engineering issues, leading teams and working with client project managers solving complex engineering problems.

I then decided to pursue Incorporated Engineer status with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Gaining my professional membership really made a difference in my career, and I started to lead major bids in the Aviation market. Being at the centre of developing business relationships was really enjoyable.

Myth 4. University graduates have better prospects

After leading several bids, I had an opportunity as Framework Manager. My role was to advise our teams and support a key government body, the Crown Commercial Service, and end clients to streamline their costs.

This really expanded my networks, gave me excellent commercial knowledge, and broadened my understanding of what services Atkins can offer. These skills gave me the confidence to meet with potential clients and help them tackle their challenges with Atkins services while creating new relationships.

Myth 5. Apprenticeships are just for school leavers

I decided to do an MSc in Management in Construction (Level 7 Apprenticeship), studying business, commercial, procurement, law, and contracts. So, it applied to my work, and I really enjoyed it. My career really stepped up around this point. I began leading major pursuits as a bid manager and winning high-profile, strategic projects in the Aviation, Energy and Defence markets that have allowed the organization to grow. After completing my Master's, I went straight for Chartership with the ICE and was pleased to achieve this key milestone.

Myth 6. Apprenticeships are the 'easy route.'

I feel passionate about our apprentices and understand the hard work, sacrifices, and commitment needed to get through. As an Atkins apprentice, I've received fantastic and challenging project and study opportunities. That's why I enjoy supporting our apprentices while giving something back for the organization’s investment in me.

We have a lot of support for apprentices in the organization. I've been central in setting up the apprentice network within our Infrastructure business and really enjoy our induction events and the chance to meet our future engineers. I now represent the Infrastructure business on the apprentice Steering Group. This has been a great way to ensure a leading apprenticeship programme.

Atkins has a culture of care, and that includes mentorship. I have been fortunate to have some amazing mentors, and now I am a Delegated Engineer and Supervising Civil Engineer for the ICE. My role is to mentor, supervise and monitor trainees' paths in the institution's training scheme. It's been rewarding to support others, see them grow as I did, and invest in the industry's future.

Discover how to start your dream apprenticeship journey #InsideAtkins.