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New Beginnings with a Higher Apprenticeship

Sian Walkey, like many in construction, didn’t take her apprenticeship straight from school.
The mum-of-two had already studied, built up a successful career and started a family – but she wanted to go further. She wanted to upskill and unleash her potential.

Taking a Higher Apprenticeship

Sian discovered Higher Apprenticeships by chance. She spotted a promotional t-shirt at her local badminton club worn by a Construction Wales Innovation Centre (CWIC) staff member.

Keen to develop her career further and rise through the ranks within her company, Coastal Housing Group, she sought advice from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) and CITB.

There, she was put onto a Higher Apprenticeship in Construction Management at UWTSD. Consisting of a Higher National Diploma and NVQ Level 5, the blended approach of classroom learning and vocational, hands-on experience suited her perfectly.

Additionally, the course was fully funded by CITB. Sian benefitted from the renewed career prospects an apprenticeship brings, while her employer gained extra skills in the workplace – at no cost to either. Win, win.

A fresh start

“I was grateful for the opportunity of gaining the Higher Apprenticeship,” she said. “It made me realize how much the industry has changed in the 12 years since I completed my Building Studies HNC.”

Sian completed her apprenticeship during a time of great uncertainty: Covid was widespread, lessons were being delivered remotely and she had to juggle a work-life balance which involved her two sons being home-schooled.

However, she was delighted with the support offered by her employer, university and CITB. “It was nice to see that there are more considerations regarding personal development, emotional intelligence and a clear understanding around mental health. There has definitely been a shift in the industry.”

Sian took the challenges in her stride, completing her Higher Apprenticeship first in the class and ahead of time. She achieved her full framework of qualifications and has already made use of her new suite of skills in a practical environment.

She’s become an expert in areas such as BIM and Revit. Both of which have a steep learning curve – with hands-on experience necessary to master the technology – and are becoming increasingly coveted by employers.

“It was very useful learning about Revit and the possibilities the software was capable of. I found that drawing wasn’t my strong point, but the utilisation of Revit around BIM was interesting, and I enjoyed the theory around it.”

“I recognized the opportunities between new developments and long-term cyclical and planned maintenance. Working in a reactive maintenance environment I often have to look at development plans for drainage layouts and construction details. I think there’s a lack of understanding and knowledge with BIM, so it’s a useful skill to have.”

Sian is looking forward to progressing her career and believes the Higher Apprenticeship has given her the perfect foundation in achieving that.
Due to the success of Sian’s studies, her employer is interested in taking more Higher Apprentices on – to grow and develop their business by upskilling their workforce.

Recipe for success

For anyone interested in pursuing a Higher Apprenticeship, Sian has some tips on how to succeed: “Take things one day at a time. Block out time to do college work. Speak to your apprenticeship officer if you are struggling, they are there to support you. Don’t give up.”

And finally – some great advice for all of us: “I produced better work when the world slowed down, and it made me realise that we need to step off the hamster wheel at times to be able to improve ourselves. It’s easy to forget how important self-care is as everything else seems to always be a priority.”

Sian Walkey profile picture

Fancy following in Sian’s footsteps? Go Construct has everything you need to know to start a fulfilling apprenticeship.

CITB provides funding for apprenticeships across England, Scotland and Wales – find out how an apprentice can help you upskill and grow your business.