STUDENTS studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands have become the first in Scotland to complete a Graduate Apprenticeship (GA).
In partnership with CITB, the university was the first in the country to develop and pilot a GA in Civil Engineering at Inverness College UHI and it is now working with its third cohort of apprentices, who are working in the industry while studying for a combination of SVQs and a Diploma in Higher Education (Level 8).
The first graduates came together at Inverness College UHI this month to provide input into the new GA in BEng Civil Engineering at Honours Degree level, which starts in September.
It follows the university’s successful bid to Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to run the four-year SCQF Level 10 work-based learning programme, which means that, along with its foundation and modern apprenticeship programmes, the university now provides a seamless work-based learning pathway in civil engineering right through from the senior phase of school to honours degree.
Inverness College UHI is currently working with its partner employers to shape delivery of the new GA BEng including Balfour Beatty, D MacKay & Son, Global, John Gunn and Sons, Highland Council, Moray Council, Morgan Sindall, Morrison Construction, Mott MacDonald, Pat Munro, Springfield Properties and Robertson.
The Level 10 GA is similar to the Level 8 GA in that students spend the majority of their time in the workplace, attending university for block release supported by online learning. Work they do ‘on the job’ counts towards their qualification and, on completion of their studies, they will leave with an honours degree, vocational qualification plus four years of invaluable industry experience.
Civil engineer Sean Melville, who works for Morgan Sindall, was among the first GA graduates. The former Inverness Royal Academy pupil has worked on a range of projects from the flood alleviation works at the River Ness, a hydro scheme in Wester Ross to resurfacing a Glasgow Airport runway.
“I completed my Modern Apprenticeship in civil engineering with Inverness College UHI and then moved away,” he said.
“But when I found out there was an opportunity to study the Diploma in Higher Education as a GA, I moved back as I had experience of the college and the lecturers. We study well as a group and can bounce ideas off each other so I was keen to return. It’s great we now have the opportunity to potentially move on to the Honours Degree.”
Civil engineer, Ross MacInnes, works for Morrison Construction and recently completed his GA. “I started work with Morrison’s and they registered me on the Modern Apprenticeship programme,” he said.
“It took some adjustment to begin with as I was studying my HNC in Civil Engineering and working, but it became easier and when I found out Inverness College UHI was running the Diploma in Higher Education, I was glad of the opportunity to continue studying.
“The work based learning route worked for me because I could link the study to work-based activity and my understanding of the course content was better because of this. I also liked the smaller classroom and the time we had with lecturers which you might not have in a larger university.”
Alvin Hunte, who recently joined Cameron + Ross, having worked as a civil engineer with Highland Council, would like to continue his studies up to Honours Degree. “I completed the Diploma in Higher Education as a graduate apprentice and really enjoyed it,” he said. “The classes are small so you get more one-to-one time with the lecturers. At work I feel more confident to be able to take on new tasks. But I also like the fact that working and studying means you’re immediately useful in work.”
Carrie Higgins, Civil Engineering GA programme leader, said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands is very proud to be a pioneer in this type of apprenticeship and we are absolutely delighted our students are the first in Scotland to graduate from a GA in Civil Engineering. We’re working hard with these students and our partner employers to shape delivery of the Level 10, which starts this September and will allow apprentices to study right up to Honours Degree level.
“Our strong relationship with industry and our experience delivering a GA gives Inverness College UHI a real edge when it comes to this new course. We know demand is there for this type and level of learning and we’re very excited to be offering this GA not only to new students, but those recent graduates who wish to continue their apprenticeship journey with us.”
GAs have been developed by SDS, with support from the European Social Fund, in partnership with employers, universities and colleges and professional bodies to create stronger links between education and industry.
Jonathan Clark, Skills Development Scotland, director of Service Design and Innovation, said: “Graduate Apprenticeships have made learning more accessible, giving employees the opportunity to develop their skills and get qualified whilst still at work.
“From this year, there are more opportunities across Scotland to take up a Graduate Apprenticeship and a wider choice of qualifications on offer.
“The growth and success of Graduate Apprenticeships at the University of the Highlands and Islands shows that they work for businesses and individuals and meet the needs of the local economy.
“Work-based learning enables employers to develop and retain their workforce and Skills Development Scotland will continue to shape the offer in partnership with industry to provide relevant opportunities that respond to demand.”
The university currently offers apprenticeships at Inverness College UHI in Civil Engineering at Foundation, Modern and Graduate level.
Foundation Apprenticeships are aimed at secondary school pupils in their senior phase, who attend college one day per week and benefit from work experience.
A Foundation Apprenticeship can provide a pathway into work or further study. Many students choose to progress on to a Modern Apprenticeship, where they are employed in a workplace and attend on day or block release to gain a practical and academic qualification.
The GA provides a natural progression route for a modern apprentice, allowing them to study at a higher level.
It is also a single route in its own right.
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