By Robert Ferry, Principal, Building Services Engineering
I started my career in construction here in Manchester as an indentured technical apprentice for a Swiss design and build engineering contractor over 32 years ago. (If that doesn’t make me feel old, then recalling my parents and I placing our thumbprints in a wax seal to make things official certainly does!)
Some years later, in 2012, I had the privilege of helping to start BDP’s very first apprenticeship scheme. Since then, we have welcomed 51 apprentices to our practice across multiple disciplines. In a full circle moment, two of our very first apprentices are now Senior Engineers in our Manchester studio’s Building Services Engineering team, overseeing the work of our current apprentices studying degrees at UCLan, in buildings that were designed by BDP.
So, whilst it’s National Apprenticeship Week, it’s important to ask: why do apprenticeships continue to stand the test of time?
The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Degree Apprenticeships and the recent emergence of T-Levels being shaped by academia in partnership with employers has resulted in a wide choice of well-structured apprenticeship schemes being available for the design and construction industry. Organisations like BDP are now able to participate in shaping learning modules at colleges, universities, and associated on-the-job training programmes to help develop people with the specific skills our business needs now and for the future.
Apprenticeships also offer participants the opportunity to develop softer skills in a live work environment. They can learn by osmosis and build confidence, whilst gaining real-world experience. Large debts associated with student loans can be avoided and the potential for earning can be accelerated. Apprenticeships are therefore accessible for all and have a real part to play in terms of social mobility. I am not alone in saying that over the past 10 years, the scheme has, without a doubt, helped improve the diversity of BDP’s workforce, and therefore the different points of view we have and the designs we create as a practice. Improving social mobility is one of BDP’s ongoing priorities and I am proud to be taking the lead on this important work through our equality, diversity, and inclusion forum, BDP Belonging.
On the other side of the same coin, apprenticeships also offer our more experienced people the opportunity to enter the rewarding process of mentoring and knowledge sharing, helping to support and shape the lives of young people with positive influences that go way beyond the workplace.
Whether it be supporting the UK Industrial Strategy, the levelling up agenda, addressing the rather alarming skills shortage in our professions or supporting the social mobility agenda as an inclusive employer – apprenticeships have a big part to play in the future success of BDP.
Here’s to the next 10 years of apprentices at BDP. If you’re not already, get on board. After all, if an apprenticeship worked out well enough for fellow south Manchester working class lad, Baron Norman Foster, I’m sure it can work out for anyone.
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