We need to make apprenticeships more attractive

Former apprentice turned chief operating officer of the engineering firm behind the Shard, Mike Rogerson, writes on the importance of apprenticeships for National Apprenticeship Week.

Mike Rogerson, chief operating officer at WSP.

This week the UK is celebrating the achievements of apprentices as part of National Apprenticeship Week.  2018 is also the Year of Engineering. What better time to broadcast to teachers, parents and school leavers the value of an apprenticeship in engineering?

There is a well-documented skills shortage in the sector.  As a leading engineering professional services firm, WSP invests significant time and energy promoting the value of apprenticeships in schools, as we want to attract talented young people into the sector from varied backgrounds, and we understand the importance of children being inspired by those young men and women who made that choice before them.  

Clearly, more needs to be done to make the apprenticeship route an attractive proposition to young people, especially female students. The number of women in STEM apprenticeships has remained static since 2012 with only 3% in engineering apprenticeships, and research by Prudential shows the extent of the challenge. Six out of ten school leavers believe apprenticeships are in sectors with mainly male workforces, one in three parents say apprenticeships are suited to boys, and female students think most opportunities are in nursing, healthcare, and childcare.  

Our outreach is paying off, and we are delighted to have almost tripled the number of female apprentices at WSP in the last year. But we know there is much more to do. I’m pleased to hear the chancellor is open to reviewing the flexibility of the Apprenticeship Levy, as this would give us the freedom to spend our levy on even more training opportunities, such as refresher traineeships for those who have taken a career break. We would also welcome dialogue with government on solutions to challenges like the funding cap for engineering degree qualification delivery. 

And it’s not just about engineering. WSP also offers apprenticeships in transport planning, surveying and business administration to name a few. Apprenticeships offer school leavers a fantastic career option.  As a former apprentice myself, I could not agree more.

Mike Rogerson is UK chief operating officer at WSP.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email