'An apprenticeship gives you the best of both worlds'

#InspiringApprentice Connor Coupland says he has been given significant responsibility and works independently in his apprenticeship

Connor Coupland likes the responsibility he has been given as an apprentice

I am Connor Coupland, 19, and from Selby. After finishing a level 3 qualification in mechanical engineering at Selby College, I was prompted to find an apprenticeship in order to continue my education (and get the vital experience). Although I enjoyed mechanical engineering, I wanted to push myself and find something more challenging. I soon discovered civil engineering, which is more about the design of structures. I finished my apprenticeship in September 2019.

My college actively encouraged you into finding an apprenticeship throughout the course, and I believed it to be a good opportunity to learn and further expand my knowledge of different systems and areas, gaining new skills and, as this was my first job, learn about working life. I quite liked the idea of both learning and working at the same time.


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Small amount of experience

I definitely enjoyed my time, making lots of new friends and connections. I gained valuable lessons and life skills as well as being shortlisted for numerous awards after only having a small amount of experience in my working life. It is very exciting to see what I can do after I get more experience and qualified. Due to my lack of experience and knowledge, I wouldn’t have thought that I would be involved with all the exciting projects that I’m currently working on.

My main role is to develop geographic information system (GIS) web apps that transform Excel sheets into visual maps to allow for better analysis and overall decision making. This is done by collecting, editing and analysing an assortment of geospatial data and then displaying it in an interactive map. If it needs updating regularly, I will also apply Python code and other pieces of software to the source data in order to fully automate the refreshing of data making it “live”. Using this software, I can create creative solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business systems and processes to make the most of them, ensuring the highest standard of safety is carried out.

It is lots of fun thinking about resolutions to problems, using different approaches and imagination to create an effective solution. I don’t often need support from my line manager, as he knows that I work to a high standard and so lets me get on with it. But I know that he is there should I need him and actively encourages and praises me and my work. I enjoy the variety of tasks that I am given and encounter on a daily basis and the encouragement to tackle what I can by myself. It helps me increase my knowledge and experience with a huge range of information, techniques, knowledge and contacts and helping others to achieve the best outcome.

My peers at university might be getting a degree, but they are not getting the experience in their chosen profession in the way someone on an apprenticeship does. The apprenticeship also gives the employer the chance to see how you work and what your personal qualities are, which is ideal if you wish to later pursue a job in that company and gives you the advantage of already having worked there

I am continuing my apprenticeship onto the next level, which is a higher national diploma level 5 in civil engineering, which will take three years. My aim is to achieve distinctions in all of my units as I did during my level 3. I am currently working toward becoming a professionally qualified technician with the Institute of Civil Engineers.

In 10 years, I'd like to have completed a degree in GIS, if not a master's, while I’m working for Highways England. Ideally, I would like to be professionally qualified as an incorporated engineer (IEng) or CEng. I want to be a fully qualified GIS specialist engineer with advanced knowledge of programming and IT systems, in addition to GIS itself, and be at the forefront of developing the GIS infrastructure within the organisation.

In my eyes, an apprenticeship is the best option as you get the best of both worlds: education and experience. However, I would suggest going to college first to get a head start in your chosen subject or profession and to experience college before progressing onto an apprenticeship.

Connor Coupland is continuing onto a level 5 apprenticeship in civil engineering. He tells his story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign. 

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