10th February 2022

NAW – Focus on: Will Cook

To mark National Apprenticeship week (7-13 February 2022), Will Cook, one of our apprentices based in Guildford, shares his pathway into an engineering apprenticeship, why he chose the programme he did and his advice for anyone considering a similar route.

If you knew me at the end of college, you might not have predicted I’d end up in engineering. I’d had to re-take GCSE Maths in my first year to improve my grades, and for A Levels I took Business Studies, Electronics and Product Design – not quite what most university engineering courses look for in a candidate.

As I finished college, I wanted to go straight to work and earn an income, but also saw the value in having some further qualifications. I spent the next two years completing a Level 3 Engineering Apprenticeship, essentially going through college twice, which allowed me to apply for engineering technician jobs.

I didn’t know if I wanted to do a degree, so I started interviewing with some other consultancies through a recruiter. Of three companies I met with, only Perega offered to put me through a civil engineering degree apprenticeship, if that’s what I was interested in. With that on the table, choosing a company was easy.

After a few months working full-time as a technician with Perega, I finally decided to take them up on their offer of doing an apprenticeship.

Choosing a course

In 2020, I started a four-year civil engineering degree apprenticeship at Anglia Ruskin University’s Chelmsford Campus. At the end of the programme, I’ll have a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil Engineering and be Incorporated with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

There were two key considerations which made me choose Anglia Ruskin’s programme. Firstly, it has block release course delivery, which means every three to four months, I spend a week being taught at university. My Level 3 Apprenticeship course delivery had been day release. I felt like I was taken out of work far more and was rarely in the right headspace for it.

20% of the apprenticeship is allocated to off-the-job training, and the weeks at university don’t account for that much time. So, when I’ve got some down time in the work day, I focus on coursework, revision, or I might have an online lesson if there’s additional material.

The other influencing factor was the length of the course. Normally, part-time apprenticeship courses take five to six years. This one takes four years. The trade off for that is that I’m working towards a BSc, rather than a BEng. This doesn’t make a significant difference to me overall, though in some cases, it might impact your eligibility for ICE chartership later on. Fortunately, this course is ICE accredited, so that’s not an issue for me. Even if it was, the experiential route to chartership means the type of degree doesn’t actually matter that much.

What I do

Perega is currently taking a hybrid working approach, with 60% of our time spent in the office. A typical day consists of doing drawings and designs at my computer and report writing. Specifically, I design drainage for residential, healthcare and education projects. I do both 2D and 3D designs in CAD, drawing plans for the roads and drainage layouts and simulating networks to check whether a design works or not.

As I’ve taken on more responsibility, I’ve written reports to accompany drainage designs, explaining everything we’ve done, as well as flood risk assessment reports.

I also speak daily with my mentor through Microsoft Teams, and we meet in person once a week.

Top tips

Don’t expect an apprenticeship to be easier than attending university full time. It’s just as demanding, if not more, requiring a lot of attention and meeting deadlines. In some ways, I’d say it’s more difficult because you’re working full time while still needing to meet school deadlines and revise. However, as long as you make sure you stay on top of everything from week to week, it’s manageable.

Make sure you ask a lot of questions of your colleagues. Having such good access to experienced people is a key difference between an apprenticeship and full-time university. You’re working with professionals every day. They’re a hugely valuable resource.

Even if traditional engineering-related subjects aren’t your strength, don’t let that stop you. On an apprenticeship, you’re not being tested all of the time and there’s help available when you need it. If you don’t have the qualifications you need to get on a course, ask around and do your research. There may be another route in.

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