‘They’re only an Apprentice’

May 2018 – A blog by Bryn Roberts


My name is Bryn and I’d like to use this blog to talk about something, and I’ll begin by explaining a little bit about myself. I’m employed by EN:Able Futures, I work with a ‘host’ company called NPS Barnsley whilst studying at Barnsley College. The course I study is a BTEC Level 3 in Construction and the Built Environment, covering a variety of professions and skills from those of a CAD Technician to a Building Maintenance Engineer and even a Quantity Survey or QS, that’s where I come in. For NPS Barnsley I am proud to work as an apprentice Quantity Surveyor.


I started my journey almost two years ago and, to be honest, at the start I had no idea what a QS was. Originally I applied to EN:Able Futures (then Futureworks Yorkshire) to be an apprentice electrician. They looked at my application and recommended that, given my specific skills set, I should apply for the position of apprentice Quantity Surveyor. I had a look online and spoke to a few relatives in the industry and learned roughly what a QS was and did but had only scratched the surface. Even so, it seemed like the ideal position for me, so I applied. I was successful and got the job with EN:Able Futures and was ‘hosted’ with NPS Barnsley and started on the 17th October 2016. It was very daunting at first as is any new job, the challenge for me was going from a school environment to a full time working environment which is very different. Everyone there was extremely supportive and soon made me feel very comfortable.


With the help I had from NPS and my support at EN:Able Futures, I started to push myself. When I was younger I had a very strong term with the Barnsley Air Cadets, followed by quite a set back in my life so I was keen to go back into a high achieving position.


My first goal was to ensure my studies were at their peak and get into the position at work. Once I’d achieved this, I started pushing work again to give me more responsibility, which they were happy to do, as they thought I could comfortably handle it. From this point things have just got better and better.


I’m now a few assignments away from completing my apprenticeship with a D*D* (double distinction) and have received an offer from Sheffield Hallam University to study a Degree Apprenticeship in Quantity Surveying. At work I have been nominated, shortlisted and a finalist in the Apprentice/Trainee of the year award in the NPS Excellence Awards and with EN:Able Futures I have been nominated, shortlisted for and won the Technical Apprentice of the Year Award in the Generation 4 Change (G4C) Awards. At work I also now play a key member on the team, working on the Better Barnsley Town Centre Redevelopment Project, where I run a 3-year (+2) drainage repairs contract for NPS with a Senior Quantity Surveyor. I deal with the majority of the teams’ valuations and other project financial management tasks.


The point of all the above is to assist me with my main point……….. Right, we’re down to the nitty gritty now.


There’s a lot of worry when you start a new job about whether or not you’ll be accepted, any good or even considered. This is the same, if not more so, with apprenticeships. You’re worried that all people are saying is “They’re only an apprentice”. It’s a reasonable thing to think given that most of the time new apprentices don’t know the job and are learning. However, I don’t think it’s something you should worry about.


Apprenticeships are a great way to start your career, you earn money, learn the job and get some quality experiences whilst you’re getting qualified, so when you do get qualified, you already know the job and will be in a much better position than people who have gone the traditional route. In a nutshell this is the key.


Any apprentice will tell you there is a big different between what you’re taught and what you learn at work. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s simply because there’s so many things that can change you and you simply can’t account for them all; so education prepares you for what should happen, and your working placement then teaches you how to deal with things that go wrong (and right).  Trust me, two years in I feel confident and able to say in this industry it’s extremely common. You might be saying “fair point, but it takes longer to do an apprenticeship” and yes, that maybe true by a year or so in most cases but consider this………….now I have nearly completed my L3 apprenticeship my next step is my degree which will take five years; in that time I will get my degree and will get my chartership. The normal degree path is 4 years (as it’s a sandwich course) and then it takes (on average) 3 to 8 years to get your chartership. Perhaps this helps put the time into perspective.


Anyway, back to my point. In my experience being worried about people thinking “they’re only an apprentice” is time I know I wasted. I really did worry about that and for nothing. With any job there is a learning curve and, yes, with an apprenticeship it can be a bit steeper but that doesn’t mean people will judge you for it. Most people understand apprentices need time and 9 times out of 10, will give you as long as you need to get comfortable in the role. Once you are comfortable, it is simply a matter of time before you start doing things of your own back. You won’t even realise it.


The first few paragraphs in this blog are to demonstrate that you can go from having no knowledge whatsoever to, and I’m quoting my mentor here, “acting as a qualified QS” in 2 years. It’s not always that quick and it’s not always that way but people are considerate of that.


Eventually you will get to a point where you’re happy in that role and people will recognise that. Until that point, people will help you and will give you what you need. So, don’t worry about “only being an apprentice”. Be proud about be confident, “I am an apprentice”.


My advice would be to go on, just give it the best you can……………