How can we boost engineering apprenticeships?
University isn’t always the natural route into a career, as some people once believed, and with it being unattainable or inaccessible for many, apprenticeships are proving to be an important way in which to open up a career in engineering to more people. So how do we boost both the availability and uptake of engineering apprenticeships?
The importance of education
In order to inspire the next generation of future engineers, they need to be made aware of the career options available to them. While many people consider engineering to be one large umbrella, there’s still a lack of understanding around the huge variety of roles and disciplines that fall under that.
If young people aren’t aware of all the different ways in which they could apply their skills within the engineering sector, then it’s hardly surprising if they don’t consider it when deciding on their future.
For example, there’s still a misconception that working in the construction industry isn’t a very digital field, which is naturally off-putting for Gen Z workers who have grown up constantly immersed in technology. Yet, engineering is becoming more and more digital all the time, especially if you look at a company like ours where we’ve always prioritised being paperless and technology-led. The advancements in BIM alone are more than enough for a digital-minded Gen Zer to get excited about.
Learning and earning
The great thing about apprenticeships is the opportunity to both learn about your desired field and earn money at the same time. One of the key reasons why university remains an unattainable option for many is because they either simply can’t afford to go, or they can’t afford to not be working/earning for that amount of time, or the prospect of years worth of debt doesn’t appeal.
Apprenticeships offer a great alternative on all of these counts as not only is the qualification part normally paid for or subsidised by the company, but it means you’ll also be paid while you complete the course.
This is also advantageous for the company and the industry as a whole, as it means that someone who has just qualified via an apprenticeship route will have considerably more real-life knowledge of engineering, versus someone who completed all of their education in a classroom. As we’re all aware, there are many aspects of engineering that need to be learnt in the field, and doing this while you learn can also improve your understanding of the more theoretical aspects.
Closing the skills gap
There is a massive skills shortage happening right now across the construction industry and this can be chalked up to a number of reasons. Many Gen Zers consider it to be a problem in the climate crisis (rather than viewing it as a sector where they can make a real difference in that regard), while others think of it as male-dominated or too traditional.
In order to diversify the industry and get more people interested in joining, we must ensure that there are more routes into it in the first place. Engineering firms must invest in their future if we are to avoid a big skills shortage further down the line. Getting school leavers and college leavers interested in a career in engineering is vitally important and apprenticeships could be just the solution to the problem.