Hello, I Am Zaid
When it came to deciding between going to university to do a degree for a minimum of 3 years, and leave university with a debt of around £30,000 and likely more on your shoulders, or do a degree apprenticeship with a well-known company, who will not only save you from the £30k of debt, but also pay you a salary to work for them, give you the necessary experience and usually a guaranteed job at the end (along with other perks and benefits), it wasn’t as much a choice I would have to decide between as it was a path I was definitely going to try and pursue.
Tell us more about your experience
Can you describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
My role as an assistant technician means I use design and mapping software like AutoCAD and ArcGIS to draw maps. These maps present information about a site, what’s around it, what’s on top of it, what’s underneath it and what could potentially affect the site (whether historical or in the future). I analyse railway track designs, go out onto site to see work being carried out, and even examine river embankments for potential hazards. However, it’s not always fun and exciting. A lot of time needs to be spent managing data we get from projects, organising that data then sharing it with senior engineers and clients. My role encompasses many different skills and aspects of engineering (civil, geotechnical and rail) along with working next to professionals in this field.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A highlight of my career would be when I applied for the GM100 programme, a programme which my company supported and the office leader was also a panel judge of, and I got chosen to participate in it out of 100’s of applicants. There was a range of apprentices, grads and others under the age of 25 who came together to think of innovative ideas on how to make Manchester a cleaner, greener place to live. Each individual would bring their knowledge and skills to the table and brainstorm sustainable solutions to the task at hand. We had to then present in front of the 100 who were chosen along with the panel of judges, who were experts in their own respective fields. Our project incorporated social media, artificial intelligence, and other forms of technology to produce the best ideas we can. To see groups of strangers come together, bond through networking, brainstorm, design and pitch an idea all within a few hours is not only fascinating to see but also a remarkable feat.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
One of the biggest challenges of my career was during covid when everyone was working from home. Doing a part-time degree along with work (not to mention the mental effect it has) is no easy task and requires a lot of time management and organisation. I had a 6-week period in summer where coursework was due for 3 subjects, which meant tens of thousands of words in the form of reports, experiments and more, along with regular working hours doing projects and learning software (as it was my first year in the apprenticeship). It was definitely a challenge to go through and something not everyone may have experienced as lockdown difficulties were pretty unique. It all worked out – like things usually do – and now I can look back on it wondering how I even got through such a period and came out better. Metal undergoes extreme heat and force before becoming sculpted and stronger. In the same way, experiences and tough periods in our lives shape us to become a better version of ourselves.
What sort of support network do you have at your company?
Support comes in the form of mentors at work, who are usually senior engineers, former apprentices and grads who have more technical knowledge than you and can guide you through the tasks you do. University has tutors who help you work towards the EPA (end point assessment) and keep you on track with submitting evidence for training. There are online courses from within the company and external sources which can help with learning, getting new skills and giving more information on topics you know little to nothing about. Support is widespread and always available; you just have to ask.
What will happen at the end of your apprenticeship and have you discussed this with your employer?
I will complete my End point assessment (EPA), and work towards my chartership in civil engineering. This will consist of exams, presentations, and interviews, all testing me on my engineering knowledge and communication skills. I have constant support from my employer and regular meetings to discuss progress and next steps.
What would be your words of advice to someone thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
For those unsure about the next steps after school or college (or even university!), there’s nothing better than an apprenticeship right now. No debt to pay off for 50 years, work experience whilst getting paid a good salary, getting a degree or equivalent depending on the apprenticeship, making connections who could help you in the future and many more benefits. There is so much support available across the internet, networks to join and organisations which hold events and opportunities to get your name out there and build a strong network. Make the most of this and get applying!