My apprenticeship has taught me so much in such a short space of time

By Rebecca Simpson

I have always been interested in a career in the construction industry. After studying Construction, Technology and Business Studies at A–Level at Ballycastle High School, I started looking at university courses and applied to a few through UCAS. I had always thought full–time university was the only option for a career as a Quantity Surveyor, until I came across Workplus.

I knew about apprenticeships before Workplus as it was quite a popular choice in my school for those that wanted to leave after GSCE. I didn’t think they applied to my career path until I seen the Higher Level and Degree apprenticeships Workplus offer advertised through a local school.

I am 6 months into my apprenticeship with Northstone and I am enjoying every moment of it. 


“I have learnt so much already in such a short space of time.” 


It’s great getting out on site as I can see and understand the theory that I am learning in the classroom put into action – it makes everything a lot clearer! I believe I have a massive advantage over full–time students when it comes to my coursework as I can get support from both my work colleagues as well as my tutors.


“I feel very lucky to be in the position I am in – working with a great team, earning a great salary, and gaining invaluable experience.”


To summarise a typical day is difficult as every day is different. I work 8–5 during the week and have my weekends off. The sense of routine is great! The days working on site have been a real highlight for me, I enjoy getting to meet with clients and practise my measuring skills, getting on top of roofs and out on our contracting sites. Sometimes I go with my team and sometimes I go by myself – there is a nice balance of teamwork, mentoring and independence.

I am already working towards my chartership; once I finish my apprenticeship in 4 years’ time, I will only have to work one more year to be fully chartered whereas a graduate will have 5 more years before they can complete their chartership. What’s even better is my chartership is also paid for by Northstone!

I will be honest – an apprenticeship is hard work, but the feeling of accomplishment makes it worthwhile. I think having a part time job while completing my ‘A’ Levels helped me to understand how to balance work and learning.

At the start it is hard because everything is new and there is a lot to learn but as time goes on you pick things up quicker and earn more responsibility and independence.


“You gain key skills early on that you wouldn’t get being a full–time university student.”


My split of 4 days in the office and 1 day at university can be intense sometimes but keeping yourself organised and managing your deadlines and priorities goes a long way. The work is going to be difficult no matter if you are studying full time or part time as going into a level 6 qualification is a big step up. At least with an apprenticeship, you get a salary and a job from the start which, all being well, leads to great career progression.


“I would highly recommend an apprenticeship to anyone.” 


There is a high level of competition as Higher Level and degree apprenticeship places are still quite limited in Northern Ireland. I think it would be great to see these opportunities grow and for more girls specially to get involved.

The Workplus platform makes it really easy to apply. You only have to complete one application form to apply to loads of different companies. I had a friend who contacted 25 different companies about an apprenticeship only to get a response from 2! The structure of the application form also makes it fair for everyone as we are all asked the same questions.


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