Ruth Watson Mott Macdonald

Why I chose an apprenticeship

Degree-Level Apprentice

I always wanted to go to University, but after completing my A Levels, I re-evaluated what I should do next. I didn’t see myself just learning in a lecture theatre among hundreds of other students, as I am quite a hands-on learner. The idea of doing something practical, learning on the job, getting paid, and having no debt was appealing. So, I started to research apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships were never something that were discussed as a career pathway at school, unfortunately, but Uni isn’t for everyone. I was always good at Maths and Science and Civil Engineering really appealed.

I chose to go to go down the apprenticeship route, learning on the job while studying at College and completed a Level 4 HNC/Level 5 HND Construction and the Built Environment course. I am now doing a top-up Degree-Level Apprenticeship programme at Leeds Beckett Uni in Civil Engineering, and I am following a design route, so specialising in things like structural engineering and hydraulics. I work at Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB) in the Joint Venture office, spending four days a week on site and one day on release to study.

Now, five years after doing my A Levels, I will have a Level 5 NVQ, a HND in Civil Engineering, a Degree in Civil Engineering, and be professionally recognised having EngTech and IEng status (via the Institution of Civil Engineers). Not only do I have all of those qualifications, but also 5 years of solid work experience while getting paid. With the job market being so tough right now, having this under my belt is a bonus.

Engineers help shape the future, so it’s critical that we inspire and encourage the younger generation to consider engineering. When I enrolled, I was one of only two girls in my class of 25. By the end of my programme, the number of female students at College had increased discernibly, which was fantastic to see.

I’m really loving what I do. It’s very practical, with lots of work outside and a variety of specialisms. I’m currently working with water and waste, but there are broad opportunities, and I am learning all the time. Being involved with a project from the design stage all the way through to it being implemented in the real world and having a practical impact on society – such as improving safety - is unbelievably satisfying.

I hope I can help to break down stereotypes and be part of the huge change that is taking place in this sector. I’d encourage other women to follow their passion and pursue a meaningful career. I’m very optimistic about the future and excited about the years to come in this diverse and rewarding industry.