My consulting career started back in September 2021 when I joined Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group. Before this, I was at a ‘career cross- road’. Covid-19 hit which subsequently meant I did not get to sit my A-level exams in 2020. I knew that I did not want to go to university full time, leading me to take an abnormal gap year without the travelling! Despite the abnormality of the circumstances surrounding my gap year it allowed me to consider different options for my future career path, whilst also gaining a wide variety of critical experience. It was this that led me to delve into the world of Degree Apprenticeships. Before this, Degree Apprenticeships were never presented to me as a substantial career choice, being barely ever mentioned to me at school. However, the opportunity of working towards a degree combined with industry-led experience and no debt sparked an interest in me. After intense research about the firms offering Degree Apprenticeships and their schemes, I was lucky enough to gain a place on Atkins Degree Apprenticeship Programme that started in September 2021.
The Apprenticeship scheme is 4.5 – 5 years long. By the time I graduate from the scheme, I will have achieved a degree (BSc Hons in project management) from Northumbria University and gained 5 years’ first-hand experience with zero debt.
I currently work for the client Heathrow as a Project Controls Officer. I sit within the PBMO (Portfolio and Business Management Office) team on the contracts side. The PBMO acts as a Project Management Office to provide support to the different portfolios. There really is no such thing as an average week in consulting, but some of my responsibilities in this fast-paced environment include drafting and reviewing contracts and analysing cost models, arranging and assisting in the negotiations of project reviews at different risk levels, basic administration activities and supporting the project managers and programme directors in the pre-delivery stage of a project or programme. So far, this role has been a fantastic opportunity to understand how projects are run in the private sector and it has been a great time to be involved. Due to Atkins having a huge footprint there pre-Covid, then a fair few projects were stopped when the industry ground to a halt over lockdown. As the world is now picking up the pace so is Heathrow, so it has been an exciting time to get involved.
In addition to my client role, I also have a university one day a week and complete a range of internal work. One piece of internal work I have taken part in this year is the ‘Apprentice Challenge’. This is a project for first-year apprentices through which apprentices manage their own project, present key information at project boards and learn how to manage and engage with stakeholders effectively. I am currently a Communication and Engagement Officer on the ‘Social Value’ team of this year’s ‘Apprentice Challenge’. Our aim is to embed ‘Social Value’ within the business. Due to this project being run internally we have been able to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe space, as well as make a positive change to Atkins. As this project is run in the first year of the scheme it has enabled us to make strong bonds with each other and make connections internally within the business.
One of the main things I have particularly enjoyed about the scheme is the responsibility we are given. As apprentices, we are not treated differently, but respected and given real responsibility, not mundane tasks, things that actually make a difference.
My advice for school leavers would be to review your options. A great amount of pressure is put on school leavers to know fully what they want to do for the next 50 years. However, it is okay not to know or be unsure. Traditional routes such as university are not the only options out there. Research is your greatest friend. If you enjoy a diverse fast-paced workday and are interested in working with global clients get involved with an experience day with any firm.