Earning Whilst You’re Learning- Degree Apprenticeships

Considering University, but don’t want the student debt, prefer to learn on the job? A Degree Apprenticeship could be the right path for you.

In 2015, the UK Government introduced Degree Apprenticeships as a new education route, combining free higher education with full paid vocational training. This presents students with the opportunity to gain invaluable on the job experience, learn professional skills, whilst progressing in their careers and achieving degree qualifications.

The programs are developed by universities, employers and professional bodies working in partnership. Here at JBA we currently employ 5 apprentices studying at two universities, Leeds Beckett and Teesside. Degree Apprenticeships are developing in interest within our industry, with several being advertised in these areas. Many students aspire to carry out a Degree Apprenticeship upon completing their studies.

A study by the government found that “87% of higher-level apprentices were satisfied with their apprenticeships”

We asked one of our apprentices Adam Noble, to tell us about his experience whilst undertaking a Degree Apprenticeship with JBA:

Adams Journey

How did you find out about Degree Apprenticeships?

I found out about the Degree Apprenticeship through my course tutors whilst undertaking my HND (Higher National Diploma) in Civil Engineering at Leeds College of Building and became interested in this possible route.

What made you decide to carry out a Degree Apprenticeship?

I was planning on studying at Leeds Beckett University for a degree in civil engineering after finishing my HND at Leeds College of Building, however after learning about the Degree Apprenticeship it appealed to me as a better option. I wanted to gain a broader knowledge of civil engineering and gain a more varied experience through the workplace, which otherwise I would have had to wait until I had completed my degree. The advantage for me is that it’s a fast track to professional membership with the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineering) at IEng (Incorporated Engineer) level.

Describe your role with JBA and what you get up to on a weekly basis?

I am a Senior CAD Technician currently, looking to become an engineer and my weeks are quite varied. Recently I have been creating outline design proposals for a coastal defence managed realignment and habitat creation scheme. This involved interpreting ground investigation data into a 3D ground model to work out how much material could be won from a borrow pit to build a bank. This minimised imported materials. I’ve been producing 3D structure models, to create reinforced concrete drawings and schedules.

I’ve been teaching and assisting other Technicians the skills they need to understand, visualise and present information effectively for non-modelers. Alongside undertaking shadowing work with colleagues across the business to aid my development and build my wider appreciation of the profession, such as geotechnical and commercial.

Virtual Reality panorama of a reinforced concrete pressure chamber produced by Adam

How do you work with your line manager to develop your role with JBA?

When I joined JBA, I knew little about engineering as my previous role was in the service sector. Through the support from my line manager and colleagues I have developed to have a key role in our team. I’ve worked at JBA Bentley (design & build joint venture) for over 5 years now, and I have a good working relationship with colleagues across the business. My line manager is supportive of my aspirations and studies and I’m in regular contact with my SCE (Supervising Civil Engineer) and my DE (Delegate Engineer) about my development with my ICE (Institution of Civil Engineering) attributes. I’ve spent time learning about the Degree Apprenticeship requirements set out by the Government, to understand what is expected of JBA as my employer. I’ve fed some of my findings back to the Technical Director in my office, which has resulted in more formal training and shadowing so I can build a greater understanding and develop my skills.

How do you balance your Degree work and your role with JBA?

Out of the 5 years I’ve been with JBA I have been studying for 4 of the years, and whilst it’s been a challenge, ultimately you must try stay motivated. My motivation is that it will help my career progression and improve my future prospects and job security. I identify in advance my academic deadlines and book holidays before examinations. If I have a quiet period at work, I use authorised work time towards completing academic assignments. This gives me enough time to complete degree work and helps me hit the 20% OJT (Off the Job Training) requirement set out by the government in the apprenticeship standards.

How has doing a Degree Apprenticeship with JBA benefited you?

I’ve had greater exposure to more varied project work compared to traditional Higher Education, it has helped me develop my skills within a professional environment and build my confidence in my analytical and decision-making skills. I am exposed to a variety of engineering and associated disciplines which helps me gain a bigger picture of projects, which is probably not as available elsewhere. It’s going to fast track my personal, professional and career development more than a degree alone. I’ve found the challenge to be motivating and rewarding and I look forward to being able to bring confidence in to my future roles.
I’ve also been able to live independently without taking on student debt, allowing me to develop personally, as well as professionally.

What are your future career plans?

I finish my degree in July 2020 and following the completion I will be concentrating on finalising my Incorporated Engineer application as my End Point Assessment. In the next two years I’d like to make a strong start in developing myself professionally; carrying out more project management and undertaking a professional review to become a Chartered member of the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineering) through the progressive route.

What advice would you give a student starting a Degree Apprenticeship?

My advice before starting the Degree Apprenticeship, ensure that you have an up to date, detailed CPD (Continuing Professional Development) record. This will be a useful tool when identifying gaps in your knowledge and recording current experience, providing you with a good starting point in initial discussions with your Team Leader/ SCE (Supervising Civil Engineer).

I would also ensure that you, your academic provider, and employer are aware of all the requirements a Degree Apprenticeship entails and document your hopes and expectations at the outset and look at opportunities to develop through the apprenticeship.

Lastly, prepare for the challenge! A Degree Apprenticeship is a great opportunity, however remember you will be employed by a business, which brings responsibilities that you may not have experienced before.

Would you recommend a Degree Apprenticeship?

I would recommend the Degree Apprenticeship to anyone who’s considering doing a degree and plans to become a professional member of an institution, it’s a fast way to gain a wide range of experience, through side by side academic and professional learning and development.

Want to know more?

Click here for more information on National Apprenticeship Week or to find out more about Degree Apprenticeships.

Want to know more about working for JBA? Visit our careers page.


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