Apprenticeships at Brighton

“Apprenticeships are crucial to developing skilled engineers who embody our values”

Tristan Banks, Board Director, and Oliver Etheridge, Civil Engineering Apprentice, at HOP Consulting talk about their experiences of apprenticeships.

Founded over three decades ago, HOP Consulting is a well-established multidisciplinary engineering firm which boasts a strong track record in marine, civil, and structural engineering.

With recent changes in leadership and market dynamics, the company maintains a keen focus on challenges including staff retention and market fluctuations.

Board director Tristan Banks enthusiastically champions the company’s commitment to apprenticeships, stressing the importance of nurturing talent to address industry-wide challenges such as staffing shortages and skills gaps. He said: “We’ve always believed in nurturing our own talent. Apprenticeships play a crucial role in developing skilled engineers who embody our company’s ethos and culture. We aim to have two apprentices in each of our three teams – marine, civil and structural, and each year, we take on two more apprentices to keep our talent pipeline moving.”

Oliver’s apprenticeship journey 

Oliver Etheridge began his apprenticeship with the company in 2021 after writing a speculative application for an apprentice role. He was taken on to work in the structural engineering team.

Oli said: “I started in one of the structural teams, but I expressed my interest in marine engineering and was given the opportunity to switch disciplines. I like that the flexibility here allows apprentices like me to explore various roles and find where we fit best.”

Oli in the HOP office, standing in front of one of his technical drawings.

Real-world application of learning 

Now into the third year of his apprenticeship Oli is working on a £7.5 million refurbishment project for Newhaven Fort, producing technical drawings and contributing to the structural calculations for the works.

The project is being led by colleague Max O’Keeffe who began his own career as an apprentice with the company, and since graduating has now become an Incorporated Engineer and deputy team leader.

Oli said: “I’ve been the main draftsman for the whole project. I’ve produced the majority of the drawings from the initial preliminary design, to the tender package sent out to potential contractors, and now onto the construction stage. I’ve also assisted with some calculations, mainly for temporary structures, for example propping a protective canopy over one of the guns while the concrete roof above itis repaired.

“It’s been very satisfying to see how the theoretical knowledge I gained in my university course directly applies to solving practical challenges on-site, for example calculating the loading applied, support reactions, and subsequent shear and bending moment forces for a structure and then accounting for environmental factors such as wind loading and a factor of safety.

Collaborative learning environment 

On his study programme at the University of Brighton, Oli is working alongside full-time students and apprentices from different companies on group projects.

Tristan believes this collaborative approach is a key benefit. He said: “Group projects not only facilitate teamwork, but also allow apprentices to learn from each other’s experiences. The diversity of skills and perspectives enriches all their learning and prepares them for the collaborative nature of this industry.”

Technical skill development 

Starting with minimal experience, Oli received mentoring and hands-on training from senior colleagues within HOP, gradually honing his proficiency in drafting and 3D modelling. His technical skills now include drafting software like AutoCAD and Revit. Oli said: “When we started doing group project work at uni, I was already able to produce drawings to industry standard. The technician on my course instantly thought I had taken the drawing ready-made from a website, so it was great to see the surprise on his face when I told him that it was all my own work!”

A valuable long-term commitment 

Tristan concludes that apprenticeships clearly demonstrate the important relationship between academic learning and practical application within the civil engineering industry. He said: “Recruitment is difficult in the current environment. The apprenticeship route is a long-term commitment, but it’s a sound way of developing your own engineers from A-Levels to a valued member of staff who really understands the company’s style, systems, and practices. It’s also a very cost-effective approach as it’s government-backed.

“The blend of formal study, coursework, hands-on project involvement, and mentorship has brought Oli from a novice apprentice to a proficient draughtsman, who is contributing to very significant projects. His journey shows the value of apprenticeships in cultivating the next generation of skilled engineers, equipped to address the evolving needs of the industry.”

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Build the futureCivil Engineeringdegree apprenticeships

Elry Hunt-Green • 29/05/2024

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