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Civile engineering apprenticeName: Tyrone Upton
Age: 20
Type of engineering: Civil Engineering
Employer: Mace Group

Like anyone doing a degree apprenticeship, Tyrone Upton is able to earn while he learns. ‘I’ve been able to afford to move out of home and get a place on my own in London, which just wouldn’t have been possible if I’d gone straight to university full-time,’ he says.

And that’s not the only benefit to doing a degree apprenticeship as an alternative to the traditional university route, he says. ‘It’s a completely different way of learning, in which whatever you learn gets put into practice. You apply everything – it’s brilliant.’

Just last week, for example, Tyrone – who works for the large construction company, Mace - was taught in his university lecture at about different types of concrete and how they affect building structures. ‘Then today, we were out on site and there were discussions about how a specific type of concrete had been chosen because it had silicone in. What I’d learned in university helped me understand why that decision had been made. There are countless such examples.’

Contrary to what people often assume about apprenticeships, Tyrone’s role carries quite a bit of responsibility. ‘I was lucky enough to be assigned to Battersea Power Station as soon as I joined Mace. It’s a massive, very exciting project to be involved in. One day, I find myself marking up drawings, the next I’m getting involved in legal documents. I love the building inspecting work I get to do and I even get managing experience – for example, managing some of the trade contractors. These people are a lot older and more experienced than me – it’s quite a big deal.’

The work is varied, adds Tyrone. ‘I’ve worked in two departments so far at Mace, but I could work in more if I wanted to. It’s very flexible.’

Tyrone spends one day a week learning at London Southbank University, while the remaining four are spent at Battersea. ‘It’s hard work balancing the two, and I spend most weekends studying for assignments or revising for tests and exams, but all the work is interesting,’ explains Tyrone, who will graduate with his BEng in four years’ time – five years from when he started.

Tyrone wishes his school had been more supportive around degree apprenticeships. ‘They didn’t tell me anything about them at all. In fact, the only apprenticeships I knew about were level threes and fours. But I left school with decent A levels and wanted to go in at a more advanced level. Once I’d done my research, I found a few at level five or six, but even that wasn’t easy. Now that I’m at university with degree apprentices from all sorts of companies, I know there are lots of opportunities out there, so I’d advise people interested in degree apprenticeships not to be put off if they can’t find much about them initially – the vacancies really are there.’

Tyrone even enjoyed the recruitment process. ‘After filling in the online application form, I was invited by Mace to an assessment day, in which we had to do group activities. My favourite one involved us being given a load of materials and costings, from which we had to design and build one of the previous Mace projects. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was lucky enough to be one of three out of 70 applicants to be taken on by the company. I took a gap year to do a mixture of work and travel, then hit the ground running with the engineering team at Battersea. I haven’t looked back.’

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