From T Levels to degree apprenticeship: a career journey in construction 

I started my T Level in 2020 at Derby College. I had just finished my GCSEs and knew I wanted to work in construction and do a degree apprenticeship, but wasn’t entirely sure how to get there. I attended a Derby College open day with my parents just to see what choices were on offer and that’s where I discovered T Levels. What I liked best about them was the opportunity to do some work experience (45 days minimum) as part of the course. I’m quite practical, so the mix of classroom-based learning and real-life hands-on experience seemed perfect for me, and I knew I’d get a real insight into the industry. I also knew it would be a good first step towards securing a place on a degree apprenticeship. 

I studied Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction which was a natural choice for me as I’ve always been interested in how buildings are put together and the processes behind their design. I had unwavering support from my parents who were excited by what the course had to offer – I’m the first person in our immediate family to enter the construction industry. 

As I was part of the first cohort of young people to study for a T Level, I didn’t initially know what to expect. However, I was confident that if it provided the well-rounded experience it promised, then it would be the ideal route for me. 

I completed my T Level last summer and it certainly delivered what I hoped it would. Reflecting on my experience, I would say I learnt a host of skills that set me up well for going on to study my degree apprenticeship. Beyond the core subject knowledge, I also learnt skills such as leadership and presenting, to which I’d had very little prior exposure. I started my degree apprenticeship with a solid knowledge base, having already worked within industry through my placement, and with immensely improved professional confidence. 

I’m now in my first year of a five-year degree apprenticeship with Bowmer + Kirkland, who offered me a place on completion of my T Level placement with them. In a similar way to T Levels, the degree apprenticeship involves a mix of study and work – I spend four days a week at work and one day a week studying at Nottingham Trent University. My role as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor involves overseeing the administrative processes and contractual relationships that are needed to make building projects possible. I like that each day provides a challenge and a new way for me to grow professionally. Some regular tasks that my role involves are completing measures for a variety of packages ranging from landscaping to drainage, processing payments for sub-contractors, and strategic networking on behalf of the business. 

I really enjoy being an official member of staff. I get to earn while I learn, build up knowledge on the intricacies of the role and partake in new experiences. I’m surrounded by a team and wider workforce who are incredibly friendly, patient and supportive. I work particularly closely with my line manager who is a role model and mentor, helping me to progress with the apprenticeship. 

After I’ve completed my degree apprenticeship, I’ll be a qualified Quantity Surveyor and I’m really excited to progress through the ranks and work on exciting and varied projects. Within the first year alone I’ve been able to visit a variety of sites, so I’m eager to see what the rest of my apprenticeship, and future career journey have in store. 

For employers thinking about hosting apprentices and/or T Level students, I would say please do it. From my own experience, I know how valuable the work placement side of the course is and how much I enjoyed it – it confirmed that a career within the industry was right for me! 

It’s also a great way to play a part in redefining how students learn, reshaping education as something that happens outside the classroom as well as within. Employers work together with education providers to shape the curriculum students learn from, meaning the exposure students gain both in textbooks and on site will be both honest and accurate. Students get to benefit too, gaining valuable access to workplace experience. 

Alec Barnden 

Bowmer + Kirkland is one of the largest and most successful privately owned construction and development groups in the UK. It works on projects across various sectors, from sports and education, to retail and health. Its values, ethos and culture are moulded by the fact it is family owned and is committed to training, developing and rewarding its people.