8th February 2022

NAW – Focus on: Jake Parsell

To mark National Apprenticeship week (7-13 February 2022), we asked Jake Parsell, one of our apprentices based in Southend, to share some insight into his experience so far; specifically, what drew him to do an engineering apprenticeship, what his days are like and his advice for people considering their next steps.

I’ve been in and out of the Perega office since I was a child, as both my parents work here. As a result, I’ve always been familiar with what engineers do, though I haven’t always known I wanted to be one.

During college, I worked one day a week at Perega. I found myself enjoying the design process, as well as beginning to develop the skills of working in a team to help deliver calculation packages to clients. It felt like an important job, proving that the designs drawn by the architect work properly.

When I finished my BTEC at college, Steve Brock, director of the glass and façade engineering division, asked if I wanted to join the apprenticeship programme. If there’s anything I was sure of at the time, it’s that I didn’t want to study at university full time, so this seemed like the right choice as it would allow me to work and gain a degree at the same time.

I started the five-year apprenticeship in September 2018 at the University of East London (UEL). Once I’m done, I’ll have a Civil Engineering BEng and be eligible to apply to become Incorporated (IEng) with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). The latter qualification can take people years to put together a portfolio of work, after completing university, so I’ll already have an edge on other graduates, and be more employable.

The scheme I’m on is day release, so I’m in the classroom one day a week and working the rest. Of course, my second and third year were all online because of the pandemic. I much prefer being face-to-face, though, so I’m glad to be back in the physical classroom this year.

A day in the life

Currently, Perega has a hybrid working set up. My typical workday starts with checking emails and liaising with my mentor about the projects I’m working on, which tends to be 3-4 at a time, but it varies depending on how the workload is being shared across the team. I’m in touch with my mentor throughout the day. We go in to the office a few times a week so we can meet in person. Being a younger member of the team, I really appreciate being around experienced people and learning from them.

Communication is a big part of my day, whether it’s being on client calls, Microsoft Teams meetings with contractors or internal meetings. We have a couple of meetings each week to talk specifically about workload across the team, sharing it so no one’s over or underworked. I find myself in more meetings now than pre-pandemic because it’s easier to have a Teams call, however I still really value meeting in person. It’s nice to be able to pull all the drawings out and the conversation flows more naturally.

I also occasionally go on site visits, whether to review information for some calculations I’m working on, or to do inspections and survey the site which allows us to support our client appropriately. Once I had enough experience, I started doing many of these on my own. It felt really rewarding to ‘know my stuff’ such that people would listen to me. More than this, going to site meetings on my own means the company trusts me to work with qualified professionals and not mess up. It shows the level of competence you can reach doing an apprenticeship, through the experience of dealing with people, and being in a work environment.

The proof is in the experience

When I think back to when I first started, I can see how I’ve developed my knowledge. The questions I have now are a lot more advanced and I’m able to have more in depth conversations with my colleagues, rather than just listening in.

When you start university, 5 years seems like a long time, but now, with one year to go, I can see that it’s really not. The time really does go quickly and before you know it, you find yourself approaching your final year with years of experience behind you and a full-time job at the end of it.

For anyone weighing up their options, they should definitely consider an apprenticeship.  You’re earning and getting work experience alongside your degree. The experience is the most valuable part because it makes you more employable at the end of it.

While I didn’t get what some people might call the ‘full uni experience’ by moving away from home and attending full time, I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and the hard work I’ve put in. In an apprenticeship, you want to do the best possible job with your employer and on your coursework. At the end of the day, you don’t want to have to explain to your employer why you’re failing a degree they’re putting you through.

If you have any doubts about the skills required for an apprenticeship, go for it anyway. I wasn’t confident in my maths when I started, but I got support from my mentor at work. We went through exam questions and would have revision sessions to help alongside my university studies.

To find out more about Perega’s apprenticeship scheme, click here.