The value of apprenticeships and graduate schemes in STEM

Four young people outline the misconceptions around apprenticeships and their value

Though an issue felt across almost every sector globally, the ongoing skills shortage in two particular industries – technology and engineering – is well-documented and is why graduate schemes and apprenticeships can be a valuable contribution to the STEM world.

To address the pressures of skills shortages and rapid digital transformation, it’s vital that those from all educational backgrounds are able to consider a career in these areas, making apprenticeships in STEM a great way to welcome talent with different experiences into a business.

Arqiva’s apprenticeship and graduate programmes

Since 2008, communications infrastructure and media services company Arqiva has been running an apprenticeship programme and has taken on 86 apprentices with an 80% retention rate.

In addition, around 50% of Arqiva’s overall hires are internal, and as such has seen the valuable career progression of existing employees. Hear from four apprentices and graduates below that are currently working across an array of roles at Arqiva.

1. Bea Mekauskaite – Graduate Engineer – (Dev Ops)

Despite progress being made, engineering is still a male-dominated industry, and it’s something that I have unfortunately become accustomed to – from university through to the working world. It’s not an issue that can be attributed to any specific company, rather it’s endemic throughout the industry.

There’s an interesting experiment, where you ask a young child to draw a scientist, and they would draw either a man or a woman, but at a later stage, when asked to complete the same task, they draw a man. It’s vital that the problem is tackled early, by illustrating to children that roles in STEM are not occupied by either a man or a woman and providing tangible role models that they can relate to.

I joined Arqiva’s graduate scheme because I felt that they were a company that wasn’t simply paying lip service to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Since joining Arqiva, I’ve been encouraged to develop my skills across the board, and most recently I have been learning about AWS and the cloud, and the future impact that these technologies are going to have. It was important that I wasn’t going to be joining somewhere where I instantly felt hindered by imposter syndrome.

I would recommend to anyone who is curious about a certain industry to look into graduate schemes as they provide an excellent format for learning in a supportive and sustainable manner.

2. Archie Casey – Apprentice Graduate Engineer (Broadcast & Media Systems Engineer)

Apprenticeships allow you to kickstart your career in a way that universities don’t. The ability to learn and work at the same time is incredibly valuable, both to you and your employer. Moreover, with an apprenticeship degree, you get a degree that isn’t going to weigh on your finances down the years, as well as real-world work experience. Working in TV and radio has provided me with an incredible perspective on the world of work. I understand its impact and the responsibility that comes with it.

Arqiva helped me to identify future qualifications, such as project management courses that will help me to progress in my career. To work at a company that actively invests in you is something that I truly value. I’d recommend that everyone should consider an apprenticeship, especially if you are looking to get into an industry that lends itself to practical experience.

3. Annicca Prince – Graduate Engineer (Radio Frequency)

Working in Radio Frequency at Arqiva provides the perfect blend of office work and fieldwork. The role involves assessing different sites and new installations, for any potential Radio Frequency hazards to Arqiva workers through mathematical calculation and computer modelling. I felt that a graduate scheme provided the perfect environment for me due to the support and training systems that are in place. Also, the ways in which they can help in plotting the initial stages of a career and workplace targets is extremely useful.

One thing I’ve loved is that STEM careers can provide a truly hybrid working style, in that they are incredibly collaborative, whether that’s working in an office, or completing hands-on practical fieldwork.

I feel that I have achieved a considerable amount in my nine months so far. I have completed my climbing courses – which enables me to climb masts and towers – and I’ve developed my coding skills through building an assessment tool that has improved efficiencies across the business. I think it’s important to work at a company where even small progressions have an impact and are celebrated.

4. Charlie Stevens – Apprentice Video Engineer (Broadcast & Media Systems Technician)

Considerable misconceptions about apprenticeships still remain. For many, when they think of starting apprenticeships, they think of traditional trades such as plumbing or building. Far more needs to be done to illustrate to those in education that there is a vast array of industries with apprenticeships available.

If I’m being honest, I never thought I’d be an engineer. I thought I was going to end up at university, studying politics and international relations. However, I’d had an interest in television from an early age and I knew that I didn’t just want to be stuck in a classroom.

An apprenticeship with Arqiva offered the best of both worlds. Arqiva has provided the perfect environment for me to learn, and I’m extremely proud of the progress that I have made so far. It’s a very technical workplace, and due to the variety of different systems, it almost has its own language.

To anyone who finds themselves unsure of what path they wish to take, I would say that an apprenticeship is a fantastic way to enter the world of work, due to the invaluable experience that it can offer.

To find out about the graduate and apprenticeship opportunities at Arqiva, click here.
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