I wouldn’t change it for the world!

By Kathryn Kirk

Cassie McArthur, a straight–A student from Armoy, Co Antrim, is in her first year of an HLA in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management. She explains why she changed her mind about doing a full–time university degree and hasn’t looked back.

Right through school I was quite sure that I wanted to do architecture. However, when I went to an architect firm for work experience I decided it wasn’t for me! I look back and am really pleased I did that work experience as it pushed me towards looking at other options.

It was my careers teacher who told me about Workplus and I did think an apprenticeship sounded good. 

It was a shift in thinking for me (and my family!) as my grades were high and full–time university had been the obvious route for so long.

One of my teachers had said about choosing a career path which played to your strengths. I’ve always enjoyed Maths and so felt Quantity Surveying was a good option for me.

I applied to a number of opportunities through Workplus and was interviewed for a few positions including a role with NIE Networks (for me, interview experience was one of the great things about the process). I accepted the NIE role and am now part of the Programme and Performance team.

I’m so grateful for this apprenticeship and wouldn’t change it for the world! I have a line manager and supervisor who are both very committed to seeing me develop technical competencies and have also arranged for me to have exposure to wider aspects of the business.

I’m enjoying the degree aspect at Ulster University and also get so much out of my everyday work at NIE. 

My day to day is always varied. Some days I can be out on site with excavation and reinstatement requirements and other days are more office based, working on our overhead line contracts or liaising with the materials manager.

I feel like I’m always growing professionally and I’m able to look back, even now, and see how much I’ve grown in my apprenticeships so far. I’m learning not only core Quantity Surveying competencies but also refined and bespoke ones as well.

It’s great to see the culture of apprenticeships changing. I think there has even been noticeable shift in the last few years. When I initially decided to pursue an apprenticeship, some people would have been a bit doubtful, asking (in a negative way) “Why are you doing that?”. 

Now, when I tell people I’m an apprentice, they usually respond with “That’s class!”

Being able to do a degree and emerge with no debt is unbelievable. I’ve three holidays planned between now and Christmas and I don’t have to worry about money.

It also opens up new opportunities. I recently spoke at an RICS event and was able to share my experiences as an apprentice in a room of QS employers. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was a privilege to be able to do that as I’d love to see more apprenticeship opportunities for people.

I’m really proud to be an apprentice with NIE and feel it’s been such a good move for me.

In terms of career advice, I’d encourage everyone to be openminded but choose a pathway that is tailored to your strengths. We’ll all be working for a long time so it’s also important to enjoy what you’re doing!

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