Apprenticeship or university? Why not do both?

By choosing an apprenticeship in AECOM’s transport division, Dominik McCormick was able to pursue his desired career as an engineer and gain valuable work experience whilst still continuing to study.

Many students receiving their GCSE results today with the hope of embarking on a career in engineering are at a conundrum. Do they go down the apprenticeship route or seek the necessary qualifications to go to university? In reality, you can do both. 

I have been able to pursue both an apprenticeship in AECOM’s transport division and gain valuable work experience whilst studying civil engineering at Coventry University. My career choice has enabled me to work on huge projects such as HS2 and become the youngest ever person to be awarded EngTech MICE status by the Institution of Civil Engineers. 

My reason for wanting to work in the transportation sector is mainly because it is one of the most vibrant industries in the UK to work in, with projects such as Crossrail and HS2 experiencing huge backing and investment. Indeed, the future looks very positive with government recognising the importance of infrastructure investment for the economy. 

I’m fortunate in that I find my job very rewarding and varied, bringing me a lot of career satisfaction. After all, the important work engineers deliver has a huge impact on the world around us. Through my role, I meet and work alongside a wide range or interesting people from all sorts of backgrounds and delivering a large spectrum of different jobs. These range from engineers and construction professionals, to architects and historians, as well as the infrastructure owners and the public. While the apprenticeship route is slightly longer than the university route alone, apprentices have several years of experience under their belt when they are finished. 

My favourite thing about being an apprentice is that every day is different. I can go from working on a billion pound project one day to a small site visit the next. As well as the rail projects I mentioned, I’ve worked on a number of exciting schemes including Istanbul New Airport, Hinkley Point C Nuclear power station and Cycle Superhighway. It’s the best feeling seeing projects I have worked on become a reality. My hope is that I will always get the same satisfaction from seeing my ideas make a real difference to the business as I progress through my career. 

AECOM’s apprenticeship development scheme includes training for specialist skills that the company has found as being needed to deliver the projects of the future. The company is working closely with the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC) for instance, developing new apprenticeships programmes for certain in-demand transportation disciplines. 

However, if companies want to attract more apprentices, it is crucial that our industry is able to capture the imagination of more young people like me. Stereotypes about a career in engineering or construction are still rife, but the reality is very different.

Young people need to hear about the exciting, intellectually challenging work engineers do to build a better world, from designing sustainable transport and energy infrastructure to protecting people from floods or planning cities of the future. Perhaps the biggest challenge to building capacity is changing the perception of what an engineer does.

Dominik McCormick is an apprentice in AECOM’s transport division.