Meet the Apprentices...

Chris Blackburn

Company: WSP in Leeds
Age: 25
Apprenticeship Programme: 

BTEC Advanced Level 3 Civil Engineering

BTEC Higher Level 5 Civil Engineering

Degree Apprenticeship Level 6 Civil Engineering

Apprentice Chris has been with WSP in Leeds during the progression of a BTEC level 3 and a level 5 higher BTEC. He is now in his second year of the Level 6 degree apprenticeship.

Why did you decide on an apprenticeship?

I chose to do an apprenticeship to earn whilst I learnt. This is paying off and has paid off in the past with me winning 6 accolades that I can be proud of, from locally in Leeds to Nationwide in the BTEC awards. I think that an apprenticeship is more valuable for me so that I can continue developing, and to gain experience in the workplace.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of an apprenticeship far outweigh the negatives. To compare a person on an apprenticeship and someone who has a degree, aside from the technical learning from the degree (of which realistically only a small % is applied) they are exactly the same. They both come into the industry with the same level of experience, yet by the time the apprentice reaches graduation they will have around 7 years’ experience and should be able to leap frog a graduate coming into the business of the same age.

Apprenticeships have the added benefit of a business investing in the person, which not only makes the person a valuable asset, but opens up the opportunity for someone who cant necessarily afford to go to university and study, therefore a wage and a paid education is the only way for them to go. 

What do you do at work? 

My typical work day starts at around 7.30 when I get into the office and finishes around 16.30. I talk to my line manager when he gets in and catch up on anything that has happened that I need to know about my workload. I would normally write down a list of tasks to do then prioritise them to ensure that I can get the right things finished for when people need them, then continue with the tasks from the previous day if there are any before starting any new ones.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy the diversity in my work, albeit that I work on large scale projects that can last for long periods of time. My work is challenging within my role as a modeller in the Leeds Transport Team, yet is rewarding when I can overcome problems and issues.

I also enjoy the fact that I am able to help mentor my peers and progress their knowledge with the work that we do. I am able to assist them through things that they sometimes find tricky and can show them how to undertake tasks differently, giving more than one perspective and maybe an innovative way to do them. 

What project(s) are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on finalising a strategic model for a South Yorkshire Client. I led the Calibration and Validation of the model, which means that I had to replicate the known observed conditions of traffic patterns and behaviours. This has been tricky but has been accepted by both the client team and the Department for Transport as a highway model. This is one of the first models to have been accepted for South Yorkshire as a robust platform for scheme testing, and I am proud to have been the lead on the work.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in your job?

The biggest challenge in my job is trying to juggle the tasks under tight deadlines. In my team we manage to hit the deadlines by working together but sometimes that’s not possible, and requires a little more dedication to get the job done to a high standard and on time. I also think that working full time alongside undertaking a degree is very challenging, finding the time to study in my own time as well as raise a family and spend time with them. 

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue working in the industry to become both experienced and take up a managerial role. I enjoy the work that I do and to pass my knowledge on to junior colleagues would be valuable for the business and my experience. I look forward to what the future holds for my career, especially after I have graduated and am able to work full time without having to juggle studying outside of work with my family time. 

What do you enjoy doing outside work?

Outside of work I enjoy taking the kids to play rugby, as well as spending time with my family. We enjoy trips away and random days out when we find the time. I also enjoy renovating the house and learning how to do most of the things myself. 


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