What it's like to do a site management degree apprenticeship

Construction site management apprentice and colourful hard hats
Trainee construction manager Tilly likes to spend lots of time on site and describes her job as being like a puzzle with multiple pieces.

Tilly Casey is a production (site) management trainee at Wates. Before joining she took 10 GCSEs and 3 A levels.

Tilly says...

On my A level results day, I got into my first-choice university and was offered an apprenticeship at Wates. It was a hard decision as I was the only one from my school not to go to university, but I knew that an apprenticeship would suit me better. I wanted to work, earn money and get a degree.

Life on site

I started my apprenticeship in September 2018. I joined a project working on the head office of a diamond company. We’ve stripped back the existing concrete structure and now we’re extending it outwards and upwards. There are a lot of things going on every day and it’s like a puzzle trying to fit all the pieces together, so it helps that I have a good memory!

We work against a programme, which is a huge timetable of work that needs to be completed. I attend progress meetings and every Friday I work out what work has and hasn’t been completed and how we can progress the work to the stage we need it at. It can be stressful on site but it’s also fun and everyone is really nice and caring.

I like to be on site as much as possible to take it all in and ask questions. Whenever one of the production team is on site, I’ll shadow them. All the site managers are doing different things and I want to learn everything. Health and safety is a big part of my role. I must ensure that everyone is working correctly and, the more I learn, the easier it is for me to understand what’s right and wrong. I’ve even become a qualified first aider and a fire marshall.

Studying for an HNC and a degree

I go to college for a week every three months. For the first two years of my apprenticeship, I’ll be working towards an HNC and, in the following three years, I’ll study for a degree in construction management. From there, I can build up my skills and knowledge and hopefully become a construction manager one day. If I’d gone to university, I’d have been uncertain on what to do after finishing my degree, but I know where my career is taking me.

Missing friends and making new ones

I moved from Hull to London for the apprenticeship, which is somewhere I always wanted to move to. I didn’t like my first houseshare but I’ve moved to a better place now. The hardest thing for me is probably not being in the same place as my friends. They’re all at university, we have different lifestyles and it takes a lot of time and money to travel across the country to see them. I’ve met a lot of new friends through work, though. I’m particularly close to one girl and we’re going on holiday to Mykonos.

Advice for apprentices

In an interview, give yourself a minute to think about what you’re going to say. It will help you structure your answer and stop you saying ‘ah’ or ‘erm’ halfway through. In the workplace, try to be confident – pretend if you need to. If you’re confident in what you’re saying, people will be more confident listening to you.

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