6th February 2024
National Apprenticeship Week – Employer Tuesday
We’re proud of our apprentices, but what do they think of us? For this National Apprenticeship Week’s ‘Employer Tuesday’ we caught up with Kieran, our Guildford office apprentice who’s been a valuable part of the team since September 2022, to hear about his experience to date.
Can you describe your experience with the apprenticeship scheme in engineering so far?
I am currently in my second year of a combined civil engineering apprenticeship and infrastructure BA at Kingston University. I attend university once a week, and the other four days I’m working in Perega’s Guildford office as a structural engineer.
During my apprenticeship, I’ve actively participated in a diverse array of projects, ranging from small-scale residential builds to extensive, multi-million-pound hospital redevelopments. Experiencing all this at such a young age (I’m currently 19) has been pretty incredible, offering a glimpse into my future career path that I wouldn’t have gained through a traditional university route.
What factors influenced your decision to join Perega’s apprenticeship scheme over other available options?
There were a few things that led me to apply for Perega’s apprenticeship scheme. First off, it’s common for young people to attend university now; I didn’t feel the value was as high as it used to be, especially with more and more employers looking for on-the-job experience.
Dealing with student debt didn’t sound too appealing either! Plus, the idea of getting paid whilst simultaneously studying for a degree was a big selling point. It might take a little longer, but I think it’s worth it.
Walk us through the process you undertook when selecting an apprenticeship program
It started back in 2020. I was looking for work experience and emailed Perega; unfortunately, work experience at that time was not available due to COVID-19. Instead, I had an hour-long chat with one of the directors to gain a better understanding of what structural engineers do. Following the conversation, the director felt I was enthusiastic and displayed a hunger to pursue a career in engineering, so offered me an apprenticeship.
I’ve wanted to be an engineer since Year 9 when I took part in the Surrey SATRO problem-solving competition. It all seemed so straightforward, and while everyone else was trying to beat the challenge one way, we approached it from a completely different angle and we won the heats by a landslide, coming second in the final. That’s what made me love engineering.
When it came down to deciding which area of engineering I wanted to pursue, I went with what I’m passionate about structural engineering, as opposed to something more general.
Perega’s apprenticeship scheme offers a Civil Engineering Degree (BEng) – what are some of the other benefits?
More than just the practical experience, the degree you get from Perega’s apprenticeship programme sets you up for job opportunities that might be off-limits without it. For example, its integrated degree program fast-tracks your career development by throwing in that on-the-job experience while you’re getting your academic qualifications. After the five-year degree apprenticeship, I’ll be going down the master’s route.
What are you most excited about in terms of your professional growth?
I’m looking forward to taking the reins on projects and growing my client base. The cool part is I’m getting more involved with clients, which is boosting my confidence. It’s not just about emails, but also face-to-face conversation, and the mix of communication channels is making things pretty exciting.
The people I work with at Perega are very inspiring, it’s great to see how they communicate and navigate clients which is something I aim to be good at.
How does Perega actively engage with its apprentices and encourage learning?
Perega ensures apprentices are fully immersed in a supportive training environment; for example, I started with hands-on sessions in Computer-Aided Design (CAD), under the guidance of my mentor. It’s a collaborative atmosphere, and there’s always someone available for a chat.
The mentor stressed the importance of doing things properly and the distinction between what the client sees and what engineers see. I’ve carried this advice with me, ensuring I put in the extra time and effort to get things right and see the bigger picture throughout my apprenticeship and even beyond the workplace.
I’m soon taking a significant step by attending a site to carry out an RAAC survey, as I’m starting to move more towards the structural engineering side. Even after a year and a bit, each day brings a new learning experience. Engaging in site visits and surveys you’re right in the mix, getting hands-on.
Can you share an example of a specific project you’ve worked on at Perega?
A real standout for me was working on a project with a tricky cantilever beam. The beam, when subjected to the effects of a structural load, experienced significant moment and shear stresses which were being transferred into the building. We didn’t tweak anything with the beams or bolts; the team simply extended a plate by 14mm which solved the issue. The way the team’s minds worked on this still fascinates me, and that’s exactly the kind of innovative thinking I aspire to.
What advice would you offer someone contemplating an apprenticeship? Any key tips?
Apprenticeships are more focused and specific compared to the broad-brush approach you get at university. So, take the time to dip your toes into work experience opportunities and carefully research all the options before you jump in. If you genuinely love engineering, and have a clear focus on a career in it, an apprenticeship is a great way to fulfil your ambitions.
If you’re interested in our apprenticeship scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org