Rise of degree apprenticeships signals bright future for civil engineering – New Civil Engineer

11 Feb, 2022 By Rob Hakimian
The future of the civil engineering profession is being bolstered by a steady rise in engineering degree apprenticeships.
The civil engineering degree apprenticeship was first offered in the 2017-18 academic year, growing steadily in popularity since then – and with the first students on the route set to graduate in 2023, it looks only likely to grow. To mark National Apprenticeship week, course providers and those enrolled on a course themselves outline the benefits of the route for both aspiring civil engineers and the sector at large.
There are currently 19 institutions all around the UK that offer the five-year course, which sees graduates acquire a BEng (Hons) in civil engineering while garnering paid on-the-job training at established engineering firms that will move the candidates towards attaining their IEng.
Figures acquired from eight of these universities show that there has been a consistent increase in the number of people joining civil engineering degree apprentice courses year on year, with only some showing a slight dip caused by the pandemic. The biggest increases in new starters have been seen at the University of Salford, which went from two starters in its debut year of 2018-19 to 32 first year students in the current academic year, and London South Bank University, which started with 12 degree apprentices in 2017 and currently has 76 in its 2021-22 cohort.
This is positive news for the industry as a whole, as the degree apprenticeship route ensures that quality, well-skilled and experienced new blood is regularly entering the work force, helping to ease the skills shortage.
Across the five years, degree apprentices combine in-class and laboratory technical learning with hands-on practical experiences. They learn about engineering in the areas of geotechnics, materials and structures, then get to apply this knowledge on site, working alongside practicing civil engineers in different areas and at different stages of their careers.
To enter a degree apprenticeship, a candidate must secure employment with a relevant civil engineering firm, who will then pay for the tuition on top of providing a salary. The universities will help the applicants to find this employment, with each institution having links to quality local firms.
NCE’s degree apprentice of the year Dimple Parmar is in the midst of her degree apprenticeship course and is full of praise for the course option. The young engineer is working for Laing O’Rourke while studying and believes she is already ahead in her career even though she hasn’t yet graduated.
The degree apprenticeships are not just for secondary school graduates, though, as they provide flexible routes of entry into civil engineering for people of all ages and experiences. Many people who are already working within civil engineering decide to join the degree apprenticeship course as a way to upskill and further their careers.
Nottingham Trent University degree apprenticeship manager David Drury said: “I certainly think that Apprenticeships are one of the answers to current skills shortages, not the only answer, but they should be a key plank in any strategy to solve those issues.  Degree Apprenticeships are fantastic way of increasing workforce and employee diversity and improving social mobility within society.”
University of Warwick degree apprenticeships projects officer Miranda Blofeld said: “Employers are using the Civil Engineer (degree) apprenticeship to attract a pipeline of new talent into the organisation as well as upskill existing members of staff, primarily from a level 3 apprenticeship or in some circumstances more experienced employees who have been out of formal education for some time. We have a mix of apprentices on our programme and the balance between recent school leavers and current employees changes from year to year.”
Institution of Civil Engineers apprenticeship manager Richard Davis said: “Degree apprenticeships allow individuals to earn whilst they learn, but one of the key benefits is that the practical element offers them an early opportunity to apply what they have learnt, linking up the academic side of a degree course with hands-on experience.
“Apprenticeships also offer great opportunities to develop life skills and work with people at different career stages, which really helps apprentices to develop into competent engineers.
“Working with employer groups, ICE has been supporting the development of civil engineering apprenticeship programmes for over 5 years. We see them as an important alternative route to professional development and qualification at EngTech or IEng level.”
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Tagged with: degree apprenticeships
Shouldn’t all civil engineering students have some experience in industry during their university course? It makes the academic work much more relevant and comprehensible. Why do those with a degree and experience pre-graduation become qualified for IEng, while those with none and a degree qualify to become CEng?
Rodney Bridle (F)
At last the profession is waking up to the damage done when Polytechnics were allowed to morph into Universities and learning ‘on the job’ became dirty words.
When I entered the profession in1950 my employer was about to launch a Student Civil Engineer training scheme ( for which we fought to be selected ) we were under a time constraint of not more than four years deferment from National Service AND the Polytechnics were offering part-time day release and night class coaching towards the Institution’s own examinations (which were effectively of degree standard ).
Yes, it was d…… hard work attending one day and perhaps three nights each week alongside one’s office duties, overseen by some very clever and experienced senior colleagues – and experiencing some hard knocks in the process.
RESULT – many of us gained enormously valuable practical experience in both office and site work, were ready to sit the Professional Interview once the required twelve months ‘on site’ had been achieved and, in my opinion, ended up as well rounded civil engineers undertaking senior roles in the profession.
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