Upskilling with Mary Harding and Sophie Abel
February 2024
Apprenticeships for all

National Apprenticeship Week provides an opportunity to recognise the achievements of respective apprentices and apprentice employers and celebrate the role that apprenticeships play in building rewarding careers.

Not only can apprenticeships provide a route into the industry, but they can also provide a route up for those looking to grow their skills, knowledge and behaviours, because apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers, they’re open to all.

Mary Harding joined TB+A in 2022 as Learning and Development Coordinator. To continue her own learning and progression, Mary identified a need for formal training at CIPD Level 5 and so enrolled on the Learning and Development Consultant Business Partner apprenticeship. In celebration of NAW, we asked Mary for her thoughts on completing an apprenticeship to upskill and how this new learning opportunity will benefit her career…

How will your new apprenticeship support you in your role?

My role is beginning to develop beyond my current knowledge and skills, so undertaking the Learning and Development Consultant Business Partner apprenticeship is crucial to enable me to deliver what the business needs. I am looking forward to the confidence this will bring me, as I will be able to base decisions and recommendations on theory, knowledge and best practice, as well as gaining a recognised Level 5 qualification in my field.

What would your advice be for those who want to upskill, but might be afraid to?

I enjoy having the next challenge in my sight and having something to push me along, but not everyone will feel comfortable with that, or be in a practical situation in their personal life, to be able to dedicate the energy to it. Focus on what you want to learn or the skills you want to gain and the impact they will have on your career, so you can target the right area. Everything you learn you’ll be able to apply on the job, which will embed the newly gained knowledge or skills. Don’t be put off by the whole journey, take it one day at a time.


How can apprenticeships provide opportunities for all?

Apprenticeships can provide a more accessible and supported route into a career, without the burden of fees or tuition costs. It is a great route into a career for people who know what they’d like to do and can therefore benefit from being established in a business early, and start gaining that work experience alongside learning straight away. Apprenticeships provide a route in, as well as a route up and you can be a full-time employee who then opts to enrol on an apprenticeship to upskill, just like me!

Like Mary, Sophie Abel, Mechanical Engineer saw an apprenticeship as an opportunity to reimagine and redesign her career path, leading her to enrol on the Level 6 Building Services Engineering apprenticeship in 2015. Having successfully completed her apprenticeship in 2023 with a First Class Honours degree and ACIBSE IEng accreditation, Sophie shares her experiences this National Apprenticeship Week…


Why did you choose this particular route?

I joined TB+A as a Trainee CAD Technician in 2015, however after diving headfirst into the world of CAD, I realised that I wanted to know more about the technical aspects of the drawings and the calculations behind them to help me become a more well-rounded engineer. This got me rethinking my career path and is what drove me to start the apprenticeship later on that year.

What did you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?

At first, I was sceptical about the idea as I thought apprenticeships were mainly for school leavers, however if anything, it opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me and made me realise that there is always room for learning and growth. Completing my degree alongside work meant that I had real world context for the topics we were studying at university. The knowledge and skills learnt at work allowed me to quickly understand new concepts at university and vice versa. Not only that, but I was earning a living and benefiting from the social side of University at the same time!

How did it benefit you both personally and professionally?

Although my journey might have looked a little different, I still left the apprenticeship with the same qualification and knowledge, skills and behaviours as anyone else. From gaining a degree to becoming an Associate member of CIBSE, my apprenticeship has been instrumental in helping me to build on the skills and competencies required of an engineer, whilst also providing me with the confidence and abilities to take my career to new heights.