IT’S NO SECRET that the UK construction sector is suffering from a serious skills shortage, with a reported 182,000 new engineers alone needed each year to bridge the gap. Apprenticeships have been proven as a great way to combat this crisis and are becoming a serious option for all school leavers as Covid-19 makes higher education a decreasingly attractive option.
With most apprenticeships rooted in STEM fields, another key action point when closing the skills gap is encouraging more diversity. The latest figures from the Women’s Engineering Society1 (WES) show that women make up just under 13% of the engineering workforce and just less than 18% of higher apprentices in the engineering and manufacturing sector.
This is something Zoe Fittock and Angelina Stankovic, both trainee apprentices at national M&E consultancy Couch Perry Wilkes (CPW), are hoping to change.
Zoe said: “Apprenticeships have always been an attractive option for many, including myself, and are increasingly seen as a strong rival to higher education, providing the valuable skills and real-world experience needed for success in the construction sector.
“With it being Women in Construction Week, it’s an important time to be talking about the need for more women in the construction sector. Apprenticeships are a great way for women to circumvent the glass ceiling and get their foot in the door.
“By making it easier for women to step into the industry from the start of their career, we can challenge stigmas around female engineers and normalise equal representation from the start.”
For new trainees entering the industry, the need for frequent technical engagement is a key part of development. CPW’s two-fold approach ensures that this can continue despite the challenges of lockdown restrictions.
Firstly, a straightforward mentor hierarchy for trainees keeps lines of remote technical input clear and concise, and secondly, CPW currently retains some weekly office presence options for trainees to sit alongside mentors.
Apprentices are given priority over socially distanced desks and office numbers are appropriately limited, while still allowing some of the regular face-to-face interaction that is vital to progression.
Angelina added: “The construction industry is as hands-on as it gets and having the opportunity to gain practical experience with software, design implementation, and working as a team on a common project goal is invaluable.
“We’ve already had great insights into the sector, enhancing our knowledge of M&E engineering and construction industry trends beyond what could be learnt in a university classroom.
“Entering a traditionally male-dominated industry can be daunting to say the least. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy as the ‘boys club’ mentality deters women from applying for roles at all. By beginning at an apprentice level, it paves the way to gender equality in engineering. Learning alongside male counterparts and benefitting from the expert knowledge of your more experienced team members, really helps challenge the stigma.”
Authentic on the job learning and an opportunity to earn whilst you learn makes construction apprenticeships an attractive place to start your career.
CPW has a strong track record of supporting trainees and apprentices in further and higher education across all ten offices. More than 40% of its team has come through the apprenticeship training programme and trainees are given the opportunity to complete industry-recognised qualifications and work on live projects while being managed in a supportive environment.
Taking on new trainees each year, CPW will be launching its 2021 apprenticeship scheme later this year.