My daughter is thriving in her apprenticeship

By Vincent McMonagle

As a parent, I couldn’t be happier for my daughter. It has been wonderful to watch her thrive in a professional work environment and grow in confidence.

Discovering apprenticeships has been an interesting journey for us as a family. We didn’t think about it much until Jane really started thinking about career options. 

Parents really just want their children to be content and feel fulfilled. It’s been fantastic to see my daughter flourishing and her apprenticeship has been a key part of that. 

Jane went to a local all–girl grammar school and loved it up to GCSE stage. During AS–levels, Jane decided pursuing ‘A’ Levels in school wasn’t for her and so enrolled in North West Regional College to study a BTEC level 3 in construction, equivalent to A–levels and got an offer to study civil engineering at Queen’s University. The lecturers made Jane aware of Workplus during the BTEC course. 

As a family, we all discussed and agreed it was a good option. Jane applied, got two offers and selected Atkins.


“Jane moved to Belfast at 19 to work and study and hasn’t looked back.”


Jane is 22 now and is in the 4th year of her Master’s degree in Civil Engineering with Atkins, a worldwide infrastructure design, engineering, and project management consultancy.

She is doing an integrated Master’s degree, and the aim is to go for a Chartership soon after it finishes, as, at that point, Jane will have been working in industry for seven years.  Jane’s employer Atkins is very supportive of this approach. The fees are funded, and Atkins pays Jane and allows the required study time.

This is opposed to someone who studies for four years at university and then has to secure employment and possibly work for 7–10 years before going for chartership. Projected timeline example “Four–years of study for a degree then a minimum of seven years industry experience results in at best eleven years to chartership“. Jane’s apprenticeship allows her to do this in just 7 years!


“The apprenticeship route is faster and better.”

Fees and debt are very important; however, I feel career direction is central; picking the wrong ‘A’ Levels and degree course just leads to stress and then changing or leaving courses can have a deep effect on young people and parents.

Jane is now working in exciting and enriching role. She has worked on the outline design and now delivery of the Belfast Tidal Flood Alleviation Scheme; as the Project moves between each department, Jane’s role has been the Project Manager link. She has gained exceptional experience, and exposure to clients and Atkins senior staff and has provided a real learning environment. She is making connections that will help her throughout her career.

It is not easy for young people to pick A–levels then a university course that leads to a job. Even if all the study and career ‘stars’ align, the best thing a new graduate can expect is an employer graduate programme designed to show how the industry works as opposed to academia. An apprenticeship does this differently; first, an apprentice will learn the company’s systems and working environment, then learn the industry’s taught theory in parallel. In other words, an apprentice has four years more experience than a new graduate and will likely have an equal or better qualification and income level.

For me, an apprenticeship has been the better route for my daughter. The Workplus approach definitely helps takes the stress out of applying for an apprenticeship, with being able to apply to numerous opportunities through one application. 

Vincent McMonagle was part the Workplus 2022 ‘Meet the Parents’ event. You can watch the event here


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