National Apprenticeships Week 2021

National Apprenticeships Week 2021_Apprentice_Construction

It’s National Apprenticeship Week 2021 and with an ageing workforce and fears of labour shortages in the years ahead, Apprentices are a necessary way of future-proofing our vital Construction Industry.

At WWA we are passionate about creating entry-level opportunities to help attract new talent, local to our offices, into the Construction Industry.  Apprenticeships are an easy, accessible way of gaining hands-on experience, whilst completing an industry-recognised qualification. As well as supporting our apprentices every step of the way, we believe in paying a fair wage for a fair day’s work, which is why all WWA apprentices are paid Real Living Wage rate as a minimum. But what’s it actually like to be an Apprentice at WWA? We caught up with Tom Hocking, one of our Trainee Building Surveyors to find out about his experience completing his Chartered Surveyor Apprenticeship.

How did you start your apprenticeship with WWA?

I finished school and attended Truro college to study Mechanical Engineering. A year in and I realised it wasn’t the right route for me so started thinking about switching to a different option. My Dad was a Quantity Surveyor and recommended I looked into the construction industry. I managed to get a week of work experience at the WWA Truro office which gave me a good insight into how a construction consultancy worked and sparked my interest in Building Surveying. I spoke to the Office Lead about potential roles and found out they were looking to add to the team. I was lucky enough to secure a position as a Trainee Building Surveyor.

When I began at Ward Williams Associates, there weren’t as many apprenticeship routes as there are now, so I started an Administration Apprenticeship alongside a BTEC level 3 in Construction. Although the Administration Apprenticeship wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, it taught me some valuable skills that I still use now, particularly around time management. I then went on to complete a Level 4 HNC in Construction and in 2020 I started a Chartered Surveyor Apprenticeship – BSc (Hons) Route. My studies contribute to 20% of my work time while the other 80% is spent assisting and supporting the Building Surveying team.

Why did you choose the apprenticeship route?

After finishing school, I decided I didn’t want to go to University. I prefer to learn practically rather than academically but still wanted to gain some qualifications. The apprenticeship route combines both and I find I understand the theory much better as I can relate it back to the practical work I do every day.

The other bonus of completing an Apprenticeship is it’s paid for by your employer which means I’ve managed to complete all my qualifications without any of the student debt I would have acquired had I gone to University.

What does being a Building Surveying apprentice involve?

No two days are the same. As Building Surveyors, we tend to work on smaller projects which means things change quickly. When we’re not in a lockdown situation, I would typically go to site once or twice a week. On-site I shadow Senior Building Surveyors and assist with site inspections – identifying defects and advising our clients on repair, maintenance and restoration options. On smaller projects, I’m given more responsibility and enjoy taking ownership of tasks. In the office, I’ll be getting involved in anything the Building Surveyors need assistance with such as building surveys, CAD drawings, contract administration and CDM regulations.

As part of my Chartered Surveyor Apprenticeship, I have one day a week away from work to attend online lectures and work on my assignments. We usually have two, hour long lectures per week and have access to a portal which is full of resources and research tasks. The tasks aren’t compulsory but help you gain the knowledge you’ll need to complete your assignment.

How do you find combining your studies with working full time?

It can be hectic at times. The course is structured so you are often completing two assignments at the same time, but once you hand them in you then have a fairly long break before your next assignment begins. I’m learning to start the assignments earlier to give myself more time, leaving it to the last minute is not ideal when you are working as well! It’s hard at the time but once the assignments are completed, I get a huge sense of achievement.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing an apprenticeship? 

If you want to get real, practical hands on experience whilst completing your studies then go for it. It’s not the easiest option but it is a great way of gaining experience, fast tracking your career and not having a huge amount of student debt to pay off.

Once you start your apprenticeship, my advice would be don’t be afraid to get stuck in. Shadow senior members of staff, get that practical experience and don’t shy away from trying new things. 

Victoria Davies, HR Manager says, “Employing apprentices has been a huge success for Ward Williams Associates! Not only does it support skills and employment in our local communities but it has a positive impact on the wider WWA team. Growing our team through offering employment and training opportunities to local people is a critical part of the ongoing WWA business strategy, and we look forward to developing our apprenticeship programme further as the business grows”