Apprenticeships now 'top choice'


07 February 2023

More young people and manufacturing employers are choosing apprenticeships over traditional university education because the practical training allows apprentices to hit the ground running in the workplace.

That’s according to 25-year-old engineer Kieran Ince, who has risen through the ranks from apprentice to manager at S&P UK, a leading ventilation manufacturer based in Suffolk.

Kieran joined S&P UK in 2016 and achieved a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Electrical/Electronics) in the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies in summer 2021.

The 18-month programme included a Distinction for a BTEC Level 4 Higher National Certificate in Engineering (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) as well as an NVQ Extended Diploma in Engineering Manufacture.

He recently completed a Level 5 Higher National Diploma in Engineering and was promoted to Lead Technical Support Engineer last month – managing a team of four and mentoring the next generation of engineers at S&P UK’s warehouse headquarters in Ipswich.

“I loved every part of my apprenticeship and career development to date,” Kieran said, to mark National Apprenticeship Week (NAW 2023, 6-12 February). “To enter this industry and make a success of yourself, and to learn and apply the variety of skills and real-life knowledge that you need every day in the workplace, whether that’s mechanical or electrical in my line of work – you just can’t beat apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeships can open the door to a rewarding career in the HVAC sector to anyone who is willing to work hard and can find such a supportive employer like S&P. My apprenticeship gave me the practical and theoretical training I needed to become the best engineer possible while earning a wage, improving my confidence and communication skills, and living my life. There’s no doubt apprenticeships are the future of engineering.”

Kieran says apprenticeships are increasingly becoming a “respected, valued and desired” set of qualifications and career pathway for school and college leavers, as well as more experienced individuals seeking a career change or new challenge.

Apprenticeships provide a mixture of on-the-job training and the chance to study for professional qualifications, as well as a paid salary and full-time roles upon completion.

Meanwhile, the proportion of young adults in England entering higher education rose above 50% for the first time in 2017/18. But official data found over half of graduates were not in professional employment or education 15 months after graduating.

“From everything I’ve seen and talking with people across the industry as well as social media and among my friends – apprenticeships have now become the top choice over university for young people and employers who are now seeing the benefits,” Kieran said.

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“From my experience, around half of people who come out of university cannot put into practice the theory they’ve learned at university because they haven’t had that hands-on experience alongside it.

“That’s why I think apprenticeships are on par, if not better, than a university education for future HVAC professionals because you get that hands-on practical experience as well as the important theoretical knowledge. You get the best of both worlds while getting paid too.

“I’ve now progressed to a managerial position and I’m very proud of my journey here at S&P so far. Being a manager and taking the next generation of apprentices under my wing is very challenging but very fulfilling. My brain often hurts at the end of the day – but then you know it’s all been worthwhile!”

S&P UK currently has four apprentices and one trainee.

Apprentices Ross Dixon, aged 17, and Kobi Day, aged 16, joined S&P UK in September 2022 on technical support engineer and customer service programmes, respectively.

Ross said: “I am thoroughly enjoying my apprenticeship. I have learnt more than I thought I would in such a short space of time. I can’t wait to learn more and continue to progress.”

Kobi added: “Being an apprentice has given me access to plenty of opportunities to expand my knowledge in areas that school couldn’t teach you.”

Jordan MacGregor, who joined in 2020, and Sam Jones, who joined in 2021, are both studying towards a Level 3 engineering technician apprenticeship.

James Day, aged 23, originally joined S&P UK as warehouse operative apprentice, and has since become a member of the technical support team.

S&P UK managing director Alex Finch said: “We’ve all been hugely impressed with Kieran’s journey since he first joined us an eager 17-year-old. We’re immensely proud of his fantastic career progression with us so far, from budding apprentice to inspirational manager. He’s a superb case study of how the apprenticeship scheme should – and does – work in real life.

“Investing in local skills and developing tomorrow’s leaders is a top priority for S&P UK. We currently have four apprentices and one trainee studying towards technical qualifications to help bridge the industry skills shortage and ensure we continue to invest in our future.”

Meanwhile, S&P UK is hiring for an apprentice to join its finance team, to start in July 2023. For the latest updates and information, visit