Agata Otto - BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering

Systra Ltd

Why did you choose a degree apprenticeship?

I became an apprentice because I find more value in learning from practice. My goal was to put the theory I learned at the university into practice, benefiting the employer and my career development and education.

Looking back over your time on the apprenticeship so far, how have you found the whole experience?

At first, I was not sure what kind of apprenticeship I wanted to do. After researching and speaking to career advisors, I applied for a level 4 civil engineering apprenticeship.

Building experience in engineering design led me to find my true calling and become a technical member of CIOB and ICE. Those few years in the industry provided me with many opportunities to develop as a person and understand current practices. I was able to spread the word about apprenticeships and promote women in engineering, which we need more of! Being an apprentice is challenging but rewarding, especially when you can see your designs being built on-site.

Currently, I am doing a civil engineering degree apprenticeship, and I aim to become a fully qualified and competent engineer working on commercial and residential buildings. I would love to continue supporting others in their career development and improve the apprenticeship process as there is a lot of room for growth for the parties involved.

How would you describe the support you’ve received from the University of Salford?

Staff at the University of Salford have been extremely helpful. As a course representative, the issues I raised were immediately addressed, and feedback was provided if adjustments could not be made. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the EPA team for their really helpful assistance in ensuring that we can perform our necessary tasks in the workplace to stay on track with the ICE attributes.

What has been your proudest achievement on your apprenticeship to date?

I believe that being a member of the Apprentice Panel at the Trans City Rail event, as well as a STEM ambassador supporting women in engineering and inspiring other women to pursue their dream careers, is really rewarding.

However, the best feeling comes when you have been working on the design for a while and can visit the site to witness the structure come together in person. I was recently given the opportunity to visit one of the sites that my team and I developed, and it was a rewarding experience that taught me a lot more about the design and how we can enhance it for easier construction.

What would you say to someone considering an apprenticeship?

Being an apprentice allows you to enter adulthood while still pursuing your studies. It does not mean you cannot have fun, as you would if you were studying full-time. It means that you will learn from experienced individuals who want to support you not just professionally but also personally. I believe it is a fantastic opportunity as by the end of the course, you will have multiple years of industry experience and guaranteed employment on top of your qualifications. It might be a busy and challenging time, but I believe it is worthwhile!

Do you have any advice for future apprentices?

The advice I would give to future apprentices is to not only do a lot of research about the companies you want to apply to but also attend STEM events and get to know individuals who have already started this process. And for the young girls, do not be afraid to join the male-dominated field as no matter where you work there is going to be some challenges. The most important thing is to do what you are passionate about.