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Spotlight on Apprenticeships

The tenth National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW17) runs from 6 to 10 March 2017. It aims to bring together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the success of Apprenticeships over the last decade and will seek to encourage more people to choose them as a fast-track to a great career.

In support of the week, two Engineering Council Board Members who started out as apprentices share their experiences, below. We have also spoken to a handful of other former apprentices about their careers, achievements and how they discovered engineering.

Many engineering Apprenticeships now lead to professional registration with the Engineering Council. To read more about this, please visit our apprentices page.

Did you know

According to the Department for Education, after finishing, the majority of apprentices (90%) stay in employment, including 2% self-employed, with seven in ten (71%) staying with the same employer. Of employers, 75% reported that Apprenticeships improved the quality of their product or service. Up to 28,000 quality Apprenticeship vacancies, including engineering roles, are available online at any one time, click to find an Apprenticeship.

Sam Hubbard IEng MIET

Sam Hubbard is System Engineer at Urenco UK. In 2000 Sam won the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year award and the WISE Excellence award in 2001 and has undertaken various roles with IET.

She joined the Engineering Council Board in 2014 and sees it as a great opportunity and experience to work with multiple engineering bodies and institutions to support the delivery of Engineering Council’s work.

How did you come to be an apprentice?
I was late coming to an Apprenticeship as it wasn’t something considered at the time in an all-girls school. I did my A levels and went to university but just didn’t enjoy the course since it was very theoretical and not practical. I applied for an Apprenticeship at the age of 20 in a paper manufacturer, Shotton Paper in North Wales, and went on to work there for 21 years. I completed an Electrical & Instrument Apprenticeship with a Measurement & Control HNC and Engineering & Management HND. I enjoyed every minute of my training and college.

What was your most memorable experience as an apprentice?
I was lucky enough to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year with the North West Training Council and as one of the top 12 we went to Hamburg for a week-long industrial visit with 12 Scottish apprentices. This turned out to be a brilliant trip, visiting Lufthansa and seeing the private aircraft they were making for a rich Arabian. The cabin areas were dressed in pure gold. There were great, varied trips each day travelling with German apprentices who were studying every type of profession you could imagine. To top it all, I won Apprentice of the Year, presented at Anfield Football Stadium (which was bitter sweet for an Evertonian), but this helped highlight my achievements to my employer and others.

What do you think are the advantages of doing an Apprenticeship for young women?
I loved being an apprentice! It is my preferred way to learn with some theory but mostly with tools in your hand taking things apart and finding out how things work. Unlike going to college or university you are paid to learn and it was a brilliant environment and I had a great deal of fun. As a female in industry I was more visible and believe that enhanced my career. Helping people is a big part of engineering, helping to solve problems using ingenuity, the desire to help is a great female trait.

Paul Excell CEng FIET FBCS

Paul Excell is a consultant with 36 years of experience in the global IT industry including as Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Operating Officer at BT. He has Advisory Board and Trustee experience with a number of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Paul joined the Engineering Council Board in 2012 and is passionate about engineering, skills and providing opportunities.

How did you come to be an apprentice?
My mum and dad suggested an Apprenticeship would be a great way to learn practical skills, teamwork, gain recognised qualifications and ultimately engineering registration, all whilst earning a salary. 

I was fortunate to be accepted on a BT Apprenticeship at their Research Centre in Suffolk where I had the amazing experience of working on world leading video, satellite and optical fibre systems with some of the best engineers in the world. 

What were the advantages of doing an Apprenticeship for you?
With an Apprenticeship you get the best of both worlds, a great academic foundation and the ability to work in a team delivering something tangible and real for customers. On top of that, the qualifications and experience meant I could become professionally registered. 

What was the most memorable experience you had, or skill you learned, as an apprentice?
Thomas Edison famously said ‘vision without execution is hallucination’. We were working on ground breaking optical fibre systems. Combining theoretical and practical knowledge and innovating as part of a team, I was able to build and test vital systems that helped create a number of world firsts. The essential skills I developed then have lasted throughout my career, such as collaboration, communication, teamwork, taking a lead when needed, attention to detail, safe working practices, listening and learning something new every day.


Shakir Tahir IEng MIET is a self- employed Mechanical Design Engineer. He started out as an apprentice and has worked predominantly in the defence sector with cutting-edge technology. He specialises in delivering structurally robust and thermally efficient electro-mechanical systems that operate in harsh environments.

Shakir says: “I would certainly recommend Apprenticeships, they are a great way to get into the job market early, learning and getting paid at the same time.”

Click to read Shakir's case study

Bethany Holroyd EngTech MICE, a former apprentice, is a Civil Engineering Technician for Moray Council in Scotland. She inspects and manages repairs to bridges, supervises construction sites and as Harbours Asset Manager, she also looks after six council run harbours

Bethany says: “I truly believe [Apprenticeships] are the way forward. For me, doing one was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I started out in transport planning but realised after six months that it wasn’t for me. I was seconded to a highways department and really enjoyed that work. If I hadn’t done an Apprenticeship I wouldn’t have realised this and may have studied towards something I wouldn’t ultimately enjoy. Also, I was always quite nervous speaking up at school but doing the Apprenticeship gave me a lot of confidence.

Click to read Bethany's case study

Steven Gasser EngTech FIMechE recruits and develops apprentices, graduates and undergraduates at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry. He delivers and manages MTC accredited programmes and Further Learning schemes and has responsibility for professional development.

Steven says: “You see and learn so much [as an apprentice] and do it all in the protected environment of a development framework. Earning and learning at the same time is an advantage and I experienced different placements across the business so that I could develop and broaden my skills and knowledge. It was also a way of building a network of contacts early on that have since influenced my career.”

Click to read Steven's case study

National Apprenticeship Week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service. The week is designed to celebrate the positive impact that Apprenticeships and traineeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

All over the country employers, schools, colleges and training organisations support the week by holding events and hosting activities to promote Apprenticeship opportunities. The week raises awareness to encourage more employers to take on apprentices and individuals to choose an Apprenticeship as a ladder of opportunity to a great career.

This year the overarching theme is ‘Ladder of opportunity’. Click on the link to an online map with information about National Apprenticeship Week events happening across the country.