First of 400 apprentices on the path to professional engineering: results show apprenticeships can help young people access the engineering profession and earn while they learn.

A new apprenticeships scheme, the first to give direct access to professional accreditation through a work-based route, has attracted hundreds of applicants. The scheme has proved especially attractive to students from non-traditional backgrounds. In London, this September 80% of new recruits were from disadvantaged backgrounds and 67% from minority ethnic groups.

The results of the scheme, developed by the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC) with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering, will be presented today (7 November) at the Academy’s event Apprenticeships recruitment – accessing untapped talent.

Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“The UK needs more skilled engineers. The development and success of these apprenticeships will help meet increasing demand for qualified engineers by widening access to the profession while at the same time contributing to social mobility. Specific actions for employers seeking to increase their skills base are laid out in the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium’s report. It is also good to see very similar recommendations in the recent Manifesto for Change published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission this October 2013, confirming that the consortium is heading in the right direction.”

The apprenticeships scheme was initiated by TAC in 2010 and later partnered with the Academy to unlock and access pools of untapped engineering talent such as young women, people from minority ethnic and less advantaged backgrounds.

Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:

“Women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities are under-represented in engineering in the UK. That means we are missing out on a huge pool of talent at a time when our economy needs more skilled engineers.

“Apprenticeship schemes like this give people from a range of backgrounds the chance to get ahead while earning a wage, as well as helping businesses to plug skills gaps and strengthen their businesses.”

The Academy’s event, Apprenticeships recruitment – accessing untapped talent, will hear further details of the successful scheme:

  • Over the past three years, the scheme has grown from eight to over 400 apprentices whilst the number of companies participating in the TAC has risen from six to 30 – a signal that the apprenticeships are effectively meeting business need.
  • Since the start of the pilot funded by the Academy 18 months ago, the programme has been successful in attracting people from disadvantaged and minority ethnic backgrounds with 80% and 67% of new recruits respectively coming from these backgrounds.
  • The TAC now has a model of good practice which involves a network of further education colleges, employers and professional engineering institutions. This is a formula that works and could be applied to more engineering fields – and beyond.
  • At the moment there are two active Advanced Technician Apprenticeships, one in civil engineering and the other in building services engineering. A third in transport planning engineering is currently in development.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, Chief Executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) which administers the schemes, said: “It is clear to me that the optimism of ACE member companies, large and small, is tempered by a concern that they are finding it difficult and expensive to recruit and retain the highly skilled staff they need to deliver their projects. With an ageing workforce and a potential shortage of graduates the situation is only going to get worse. The sector as a whole urgently needs to find new ways to access and train the next generation of professional engineers. These new apprenticeships open up routes for a pool of talent previously harder to tap.”

Apprentices success stories

Mr Calvin Mills

Calvin joined the new apprenticeships scheme when it was first launched and he is now a Higher Level Civil Engineering apprentice for Balfour Beatty currently working for the BBMV joint venture on the Crossrail C510 project; the Whitechapel and Liverpool Street Station Tunnels.

He works at the Liverpool Street site and fulfils several roles. When required, he gets involved in the underground engineering tasks associated with the SCL tunnelling works. He also works with the team in the office that are compiling the works package documentation.

Calvin recently completed his Advanced Civil Engineering Technician apprenticeship achieving the Grade D*Distinction, one of the highest in his class. He recently enrolled on the Higher Level Civil Engineering apprenticeship at the College of North West London; as part of this framework Calvin will complete a HND in Civil Engineering and a Construction Management Level 5 NVQ.

He recently sat his ICE EngTech review and he will hear in early December if he has successfully reached the first step on his professional civil engineering career.

In June this year Calvin attended 10 Downing Street to help publicise the announcement of the Gatsby EngTech initiative by David Cameron.

Miss Regina Tumblepot

Regina Tumblepot also joined the Advanced Civil Engineering Technician apprenticeship programme at the very beginning with Morgan Sindall, working for the joint venture BBMV (consisting of Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall, VINCI Construction Grands Projets and ALPINE BeMo Tunnelling) on the C510 Whitechapel and Liverpool Street Station Tunnels Crossrail project.

She has recently finished her apprenticeship and has also won the ‘Crossrail Apprentice of the Year' award, and was highly commended at UKCG's ‘Apprentice of the Year' awards.

Like Calvin, she sat her ICE EngTech review and will hear in early December if she has successfully reached the first step on her professional civil engineering career. Her next step will be to start a higher-level apprenticeship in civil engineering.

Describing her route into the industry, Regina says, "I have always enjoyed maths, science and problem-solving so I went to college and studied manufacturing and mechanical engineering. It was here that I discovered I had a love for engineering. I decided that this was to be my chosen career but opted for an apprenticeship as I wanted to gain experience on site while I was learning".

Notes for editors

Two of the first apprentices that joined the scheme and have now completed their apprenticeships, Regina and Calvin, are available for interviews.

  1. The best practices report: “Apprentices recruitment: Accessing untapped talent. A good practice model for employers and professional institutions” summarising the results of the apprenticeship scheme and will be hosted online after the event. Copies are available on request.
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.

    We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.
  3. The Technician Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC) is a group of major Engineering Consultancy practices that first came together in 2010 to develop and deliver professionally accredited Advanced Technician Apprenticeships in Civil and Building Services Engineering. TAC was founded In March 2010 by Mott MacDonald, which established a consortium of six of the UK’s largest engineering consultancy firms, including Arup, Capita Symonds, Halcrow, Hyder, Mott MacDonald and WSP. Over the last three years, the number of companies involved has risen from 6 to over 30 whilst the number of apprentices recruited has risen from 8 in September 2010 to over 200 in September 2013. Since its inception TAC has afforded over 400 apprenticeship places offering young people an alternative route into a career in the rewarding field of engineering. This award winning initiative is meeting the business need for highly skilled technicians and offering young people a valued work-based route to a career as a professional engineer.
  4. Since April 2011, the Academy has been leading a diversity programme funded by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills aimed at increasing diversity at all levels across the profession. The Royal Society has also been appointed to conduct a parallel programme that focuses on the sciences, and the two organisations are working closely together to increase diversity across the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). For more on the programme visit  Diversity in the Academy

For more information please contact

Giorgio De Faveri at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0655; email: Giorgio De Faveri