Civil Engineering Degree Apprentice Charlie Philipson puts his learning into practice at Arup

Charlie is a Civil Engineering degree apprentice working at Arup, a professional services firm championing sustainable development. We spoke to Charlie about his degree apprenticeship experience.


Charlie smiles at the camera

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you chose to study a degree apprenticeship?

I originally applied to become a Structural BIM Designer at Arup (Newcastle office) in 2016 but my application was unsuccessful. I then took a 12-month unpaid traineeship with a different company (Rolls Royce) for a Level 3 Engineering with the aim of reapplying to Arup, which I did and was successful this time round. Arup supported me through part-time college and then offered me the opportunity to undertake a degree apprenticeship.

The reason I was quick to accept the degree apprenticeship was that I could gain the knowledge and understanding from a structural engineer's perspective, whilst also having the skills of a BIM Designer. A part-time degree seemed like the perfect way to achieve this alongside my other work commitments.

How did you manage your work commitments and studying for your degree apprenticeship?

Having both a full-time job and studying for a degree is a huge commitment and can be challenging at times, particularly around coursework and exams. It’s important to realise which modules you understand better than others and prioritise independent learning time on the modules you struggle with.

I found it extremely beneficial to speak to people within my organization who helped explain and advise on the modules I was struggling with. It was also beneficial to start applying the knowledge I was learning at university to my full-time job. Because of this, I was able to construct a concept structural Revit model basic structure from an Architect’s design.

What support have you had from your employer?

My employer (Arup) has been extremely helpful throughout my part-time studies. I’m lucky that being able to ask for dedicated time around exams and coursework is always planned for and accepted. They also financially support my weekly travel from Newcastle to Leeds and schedule frequent catch-up reviews to ensure I understand my modules and ask if I need any additional support.

What has been your favourite thing about your time studying at Leeds Beckett?

My favourite moment of university was when I began to understand the theory behind structures in the buildings we were designing, this was my motivation for undertaking the degree in the first place.

I also look forward to being a student rep and helping deliver feedback from students to help improve things for future students.

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying a degree apprenticeship?

Stay organised and be honest about the modules you need further support with. If a module isn’t going in... speak up! It’s important to realise that you’re not just here to learn – it’s to understand and eventually be able to apply your knowledge in your day-to-day role.

It’s also important to make sure you clearly understand what’s being asked in coursework and exams to ensure you give yourself the best chance. And make friends! Having a group of like-minded people around you helps you give and get advice on modules, we all have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s good to have this peer-to-peer network.

What’s next for you?

I’m really excited to achieve my IEng in engineering. I hope to take a small break in education after university to be involved in more community engagement events. Then hopefully one day I can study for a master's degree and achieve a CEng. That will be a very proud moment for me, considering I was originally unsuccessful in my application!

We asked Charlie’s employers why degree apprenticeships are a good way to upskill staff?

“Degree Apprenticeships are something Arup fully support. They offer the perfect mix of work-based learning alongside more structured academic education, allowing our employees and the business/team to benefit from the tailored learning, on the job training and development of skills and knowledge that is directly relevant to their job and role.

Charlie has fully embraced his Degree Apprenticeship and strives to get the best out of it and apply it to his daily work. He also sees the opportunities the Degree Apprenticeship can offer for any further career aspirations he may have after completing the apprenticeship.”

We also caught up with Tom Craven, Course Director for the Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship course

“It is a privilege and a pleasure to oversee Civil Engineering Degree Apprentices developing as they progress through the course, both professionally in the workplace and academically through university study. Charlie is a fantastic role model for anyone determined to commit to further themselves. I am heartened that Charlie was undeterred when not first successful in his job application and then chose to study academically to be successful the following year. Charlie has continued this level of commitment and hard work into his apprenticeship, and this shows. It is great to hear that Charlie has found strong support in his workplace and has also applied his university learning to enhance his ability to contribute to his job role. This is a key aspect of a Civil Engineering Apprenticeship. We wish Charlie further success for the rest of his Apprenticeship.”

To learn how you can study and work at the same time, visit our degree apprenticeship webpage.

School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing

The School of Built Environment & Engineering represents an inclusive and enthusiastic community of staff, students and professional partners who recognise that what they do, design and develop will have a lasting impact on the fabric of society.

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