9th February 2024

National Apprenticeship Week with Shaun Tye and Jack Clarke

Join us this National Apprenticeship Week as we explore apprenticeships at Sir Robert McAlpine with Shaun Tye and Jack Clarke, Civil Engineer Apprentices.

In support of National Apprenticeship Week, we caught up with Shaun Tye and Jack Clarke, Civil Engineer Apprentices at Sir Robert MCAlpine.

This year, National Apprenticeship Week explores the #SkillsForLife an apprenticeship equips you with: celebrating the achievements of over 752,000 people recorded participating in an apprenticeship in England over the last academic year.

Two of those apprentices are our very own Shaun Tye and Jack Clarke, Civil Engineer Apprentices based out of the National Rehabilitation Centre in Loughborough, which is being delivered by Integrated Health Projects (IHP), a joint venture between VINCI Building and Sir Robert McAlpine. Currently in their 2nd year of the apprenticeship, Jack and Shaun are both on track to become fully incorporated engineers by 2027.

“Everything began with a summer placement I did with the firm. I was telling a friend how much I was enjoying myself and how I was considering a career in construction – he then put me in touch with the right people to apply for the apprenticeship,” Jack shares.  

Shaun had a slightly different route into the industry, applying for an apprenticeship straight out of his A-Levels – motivated by the chance to work alongside industry specialists as he trained and the opportunity to go to university while also earning a salary.

As part of the apprenticeship programme, Jack and Shaun both attend Nottingham Trent University one day a week, working at the National Rehabilitation Centre for the other four.

Learning in the classroom is totally different from learning practical skills onsite. The apprenticeship route is great because you get taught all the facts and context behind why you do what you do in class, and then you get to apply these skills at work. Doing things in real life teaches you so many things that words on a page can’t.

Shaun Tye Civil Engineer Apprentice at Sir Robert McAlpine

Jack and Shaun came to the National Rehabilitation Centre site from different sector projects - with Jack at Binks Yard restaurant in Nottingham while Shaun was at a mixed use residential and retail redevelopment now known as The Goodsyard in Birmingham. From healthcare, the pair expect to next move on to an industrial project – and so will have worked on a variety of sites over the course of their apprenticeships, each with unique sets of opportunities and challenges.

But what remains the same across the board has been the pair’s exposure to specialists and leaders in their field, and the support and encouragement given that has ensured they feel like valuable members of each project team.

“Here in Loughborough, the project team is sat in one room together – my direct manager is actually sat almost directly in front of me. The senior team have always been approachable and are happy to answer all our questions,” Jack shares.

Shaun adds that there is also a level of trust afforded to the apprentices that has been vital for building confidence and their personal development.

“On my last job, I was given the chance to work on the hoist apartments. My manager essentially let me manage these across the building so I could have the hands-on experience I was looking for. Of course, he was there throughout to support when I ran into any problems – that’s been one of my favourite moments so far.”

The financial independence being an apprentice provides is another bonus, Shaun adds.

“I love travelling, and last year I got to celebrate my birthday in Iceland under the Northern Lights thanks to my apprenticeship. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life!”

But, Jack notes, you have to put in hard work to reap the rewards.

“There are times when I have to turn down plans with my friends who are in university because I have work the next day. The nature of the programme means it’s inevitable that you don’t have as much freedom compared to traditional routes – but it’s entirely worth the hard work.”

In line with this year’s theme of #SkillsForLife, we asked the duo what their biggest learning points have been so far – and what they want to share with the next generation of apprentices.

“Be open minded to what you’re getting yourself into,” Shaun says.

“I love what I’m doing now but it isn’t exactly what I thought it would be, in the best way possible. You have to be open to learning new things –  there’s loads you pick up on at work that just won’t be taught in classes.”

“I’d also advise potential apprentices against wearing a suit to your first day of the job onsite. From personal experience: everyone will have a good laugh at you!”

Jack is keen to note the improvement he has seen in his communication and problem-solving skills – something future apprentices can look forward to.

Being onsite and in a workplace teaches you the importance of having to communicate your thoughts clearly. You can’t approach different people in the same way, so we’re practicing those skills every day.

Jack Clarke Civil Engineer Apprentice at Sir Robert McAlpine

Five years from now, Shaun and Jack will be incorporated engineers – and both plan on pursuing a long-term career in construction, keeping an open mind to make the most of any opportunities that come their way.

Or, Jack chips in: “At the very least, we’d like to be on a beach somewhere nice!”

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