As a specialist secondary school for young people with a flair for science and engineering South Devon UTC is backing the ‘Fire It up’ campaign by National Apprenticeship Week (4-9 March) to inspire and excite the next generation of scientists, engineers and environmentalists to take up an apprenticeship and is getting behind the national awareness week by hosting a special Work Ready Day in partnership with leading South West employers to encourage students to consider apprenticeships.
National Apprenticeship Week, now in its 12th year, highlights the fantastic benefits of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, local communities and the economy.
Students at the Kingsteignton Road college will have the opportunity to meet current apprentices who are working for a range of local employers including the Environment Agency, MB Aerospace and South West Water, meet potential apprentice employers and attend a series of workshops designed to help students make the right choice when it comes to choosing an option post college. Interview skills workshops will be led by Strata, MB Aerospace, South West Water and Valeport. Young people interested in a career in STEM will have the opportunity to perfect their interview skills with some of the South West’s leading employers, giving them the best chance of securing an apprenticeship after leaving South Devon UTC. Towards the end of the day, Year 13’s will be invited to meet with South West Water, Centrax and MB Aerospace to discuss the apprenticeship application process before visiting the Careers Exhibition.
James Trout, Laboratory Manager at the Environment Agency, commented: “The Environment Agencies National Laboratory service employ 85 technical staff locally. Part of maintaining a successful and thriving analytical service is to ensure we engage with the next generation of scientists and technicians. We are keen to encourage this talent to see the Environment Agency as a potential route for their career.”
James continued: “We have recently completed our first round of apprenticeships with all our apprentices completing their studies and achieving permanent employment within our Laboratories. We have been so impressed with our apprentices’ skills and determination and will be recruiting again in the summer. We support South Devon UTC with work experience and all the students who have come to learn with us have displayed commitment and professionalism. We would welcome applications from the college for our next round of recruitment.”
Zach Harrison, 20, is currently working at Hinkley Point as part of his Degree Level Apprenticeship. He works at the nuclear power station for a month and a half before attending University for two weeks. This pattern continues right up until his exams. After studying at South Devon UTC, Zach was keen to put his skills into practice:
“I actually started studying for my A Levels at another college but it wasn’t for me so I stopped and transferred to South Devon UTC. I found that doing an engineering based BTEC course was a lot more helpful to me than my A Levels were. I’ve used pretty much everything I’ve learnt at South Devon UTC in my office or on-site. A lot of what I learnt at South Devon UTC has also re-appeared in the first term of my University degree at the University of Exeter as well.
“I chose to start an apprenticeship as I was keen to get some hands-on experience in my chosen field. As far as I’ve seen, people will go to University and they’ll come out to places like Hinkley Point, but they won’t have as much hands-on experience compared to those who have completed an apprenticeship here. My apprenticeship is giving me the chance to develop my skills and learn the ins and outs of the company as well as how things work. I don’t feel like I miss out on the University experience at all as with my Degree Level Apprenticeship, I still get to go to University as well.”
Before deciding to start his Degree Level Apprenticeship, Zach was unsure of whether to become a full-time University student or to start an apprenticeship. He commented:
“To others in a similar position, I would advise to apply to both and keep in contact with each until you make your decision. Find out what the similarities and differences are and what they can offer you. I didn’t quite realise what the structure of my apprenticeship at Hinkley Point was going to be like. I get a lot of experience down on site and I’m already learning things that those who have already been through University are only just learning. It’s just a case of exploring what your options are as there are plenty out there.”
Jemima May, 18, hopes to start an apprenticeship at Wales and West Utilities later this year. Currently studying at South Devon UTC, Jemima is looking forward to seeing what an apprenticeship can do for her career. She commented: “I chose to embark on an apprenticeship instead of going to University as I like the idea of participating in hands-on work whilst earning money. With an apprenticeship, there’s a great opportunity to progress and work your way up through a company from the get-go.
“At South Devon UTC, I’ve learnt some great skills on machines, I’ve developed good communication skills and I’ve learnt how to problem solve. I’ve also learnt to tackle a challenge from all different aspects, enabling me to solve and get around a problem. I chose Wales and West Utilities as they have some great opportunities in electrical engineering which is what I am interested in.”
Many young people struggle to decide which path to take once they have finished compulsory education. Jemima is encouraging others not to rule out apprenticeships and to start looking around at different companies to see what they can offer. She continued: “Make sure you understand what happens after you complete your apprenticeship as that’s the most important part. If you go to University, once you leave, you’re back at step one on choosing where to go next. So, I’d say look at all the different companies in the area you want to go into, contact them and ask them what they are looking for and find out what happens when you pass your apprenticeship. Establish whether you have the opportunity to progress further up through the company.”
South Devon UTC works with some of the region’s leading employers to design a curriculum for 14-19-year-olds which will equip students with the skills and experience needed to progress in their chosen careers. These employer partners also provide Challenge Projects, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities. Both South West Water and MB Aerospace, an international group providing complex engineering solutions to the Aerospace and Defence market, are facilitating access to apprenticeships to South Devon UTC students every year.
Claire Plumb, Principal at South Devon UTC, commented: “Over 50% of post-16 leavers from South Devon UTC go on to start apprenticeships with the remaining planning to study at University or join the military. Our Work Ready Day, as part of National Apprenticeship Week, is important as there is a real need to change the perception of apprenticeships and highlight their value both to students and potential employers. We hope that our Work Ready Day will give our young people plenty to think about, opening their eyes to just how many options they have once they leave college.”