On 15 July, SES Engineering Services (SES) will be celebrating World Youth Skills Day to help generate awareness surrounding the future skills, training, and development of the country’s next generation of construction workers.
And following last week’s announcement from the Chancellor, which set out to increase the number of apprenticeships across the UK, it’s now more important than ever that young people are aware of the potential they can bring.
Emily Marner, project engineer at SES Engineering Services, shares her journey into the construction sector from an apprentice electrician to managing major projects.
Please could you describe your career journey which led you to working at SES?
My journey to becoming an engineer at SES was completely unintentional. Throughout my youth, I always wanted to work in the equine industry, and when that did not go to plan, I felt quite lost and unsure as to what I wanted to do as a career.
My uncle worked as an engineer at SES and suggested I give it a try – I didn’t have anything to lose.
In 2008, I secured an apprenticeship with SES and started a four-year Electrical Apprenticeship at Leeds College of Building. In 2013, I then moved to a student engineer role, undertaking an 18-month BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma in Building Services Engineering, before completing a HND in Building Services Engineering. Finally, in September 2017, I began studying for a degree in Building Services at Leeds Beckett University and graduated in 2019.
I’d highly recommend starting an apprenticeship – the hands-on learning you receive is invaluable and something you just can’t get from a standard university degree. Without my apprenticeship I’d probably never have considered a career in construction and now, 11 years on, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.
What is it like working in construction now?
One of the best parts of working in the construction industry is the many benefits that come with working on a busy site – every day is different, the camaraderie between teams and clearly seeing day-by-day the project’s progression. It is an understatement to say that working on a construction project from home has been very different, especially not being able to see the site physically.
As things are beginning to resume, we are hoping to see the industry slowly return back to ‘normal’. However, I think people are going to appreciate working in person much more, blended with a greater use of technology which can only be good for our sector.
Do you think schools provide enough information to help young people confidently understand apprenticeships?
When I was at school, I was given no information about the potential of the construction industry, or the benefits of apprenticeships – especially as a woman.
For this reason, I have become an ambassador for the MEP industry by visiting schools and colleges to encourage young people to consider the construction industry as a career by advising them on what skills are vital for working in the industry. For example, being able to work well in a team, good time management and a problem-solving mind is key. I also think it’s so important to give them an honest depiction of what the industry involves – it doesn’t have to be working in the rain on a building site, if that’s not what you want to do.
The feedback I have often received from students is that they feel more open-minded to working in construction. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I have helped to inform and promote the endless possibilities associated with a career in construction, and hopefully inspire the next generation of engineers.
However, with schools being closed due to COVID-19, there has been less opportunity for construction to be discussed in schools, as there is less access to talks and career days. Moving forward, it is critical for both businesses and the government to encourage early engagement, so more apprentices enter the sector. And as well as educate young people, this should also focus on the parents too, to make them aware of the opportunities that lie in construction. Without the backing of parents, many talented individuals may avoid an industry which could offer them so much.