National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Interview with engineer Katie Baker

It’s National Apprenticeship Week and this year’s theme is ‘Building the future’. It’s fitting for a period that has been marked by adaptation and new ways of working. Even in a pandemic, we remain dedicated to helping apprentices build the skills and knowledge they need for a rewarding career.

Katie Baker is an Apprentice Engineer who joined our Manchester office in August 2019. She is currently studying at Liverpool John Moores University and has shared some insight into what life in a degree apprenticeship looks like.

Are you looking for an apprenticeship to hone your skills? Keep a lookout on our Careers page in the upcoming weeks for some exciting roles.

What does your day-to-day look like?

At the minute, it’s a lot of work on Revit (building information modelling software) and I tend to do quite a lot of drawings and layout plans. But I also work quite closely with my manager and attend meetings to learn more about what he does.

I’m leaning more into electrical engineering than mechanical because that seemed the more engaging of the two to me personally after having done mechanical in college for my A-Levels. It lets me work on things like fire alarm plans, security, and CCTV.

What made you do an apprenticeship?

When I did my A-Levels, I didn’t really enjoy the full-time studying that much. At all. When I came across the idea of a degree apprenticeship, it sounded a lot better because it’s on-the-job learning, not just sitting in a classroom. I’m the kind of person who needs to do practical things as I’m learning through different tasks, not just listening to someone tell me what I need to know and how things work.

I have found, even though I’m only in Uni one day a week, the assignments and exams we get have been a lot easier as a result.

What have you been working on at Tetra Tech?

The main project I’ve been working on is a park in Manchester, which entered stage 1 a week after I joined. It’s quite a little project that’s now at stage 4, and even though my manager is there to give me guidance, I’ve done quite a lot of the stuff on that, so it’s almost like it’s my project.

There have been other projects I’ve supported too like office buildings and nurseries that needed drawings.

Has it been difficult to pick up new skills (such as Revit)?

It probably wasn’t as hard for me because when I joined, Revit was already being used from the start. For those who have been using AutoCAD as their main software, I can see how the transition would be tough. We have a woman in our team who’s a real Revit wizard, though, so for any questions, she’s always there to help and show you how to do it.

What has surprised you the most?

When I started, I had no concept of what a building services engineer did. I had a rough idea because my dad works in construction. I thought it was going to be quite hard, involving stuff I had no idea about. But what did surprise me was how quickly and easily I picked up on things and retained it. I do surprise myself when I’m talking to people and things just pop into my head that I didn’t know I knew.

What qualifications will you have in the end?

I’m a year and a half into my degree apprenticeship, with another three and a half years to go. I’ll have a degree in building service engineering, and I am quite keen to then do my master’s so I can be a chartered building service engineer in five and a half years’ time.

What would you say to young people on the fence about apprenticeships?

It’s really beneficial: it’s experience for however many years the apprenticeship lasts, but you’ve also got the added benefit of being paid at the same time as you’re studying at Uni.

If I did my degree without an apprenticeship, I think I would struggle coming out of three years of Uni with no experience to then go into a job. I feel like I’d have to start learning again. That’s why I think degree apprenticeships are so good. You’re more valuable in terms of the knowledge and expertise you bring to the market because you’ve actually done the job.

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