The apprenticeship model is “back in fashion” after a sea change in how it is viewed.
That’s according to Kevin Byrne, managing director at Seymour Civil Engineering in Hartlepool, who worked his way up and has now spent 27 years at the company.
He has seen a steady stream of apprentices work their way through the ranks and they are a key part of his team.
He added: “I think there has been a sea change. People are getting to the crossroads of further education and giving it some serious consideration rather than going to university.”
He asked: “Why fund an expensive university degree – and pick up the debt at the end of it – when you can come straight into an organisation like ourselves, get on-the-job training and earn a professional qualification at the end of it?
“Graduates are equipped for later life rather than the here and now, whereas apprentices have to learn quickly and within a couple of years they have been given a headstart.”
Mr Byrne added: “If you look at somewhere like Germany, there is a model in place. People start on the shop floor, there is a mutual respect and appreciation and doors open along the way to allow them to progress.
“You will find that a lot of people in the senior positions up at the top have worked their way up from the very bottom.
“But now, back in our country, it seems to be coming back into fashion.”
He said bosses were “becoming more receptive now, they can see the benefits”.
“If that continues, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t, then I think it benefits everyone.
“We work closely with Hartlepool College of Further education, we have an excellent relationship with them and we will continue that partnership moving forward as we have some real success stories.”
Seymour, a civil engineering business based at Hartlepool Marina, employs more than 230 people.
It specialises in drainage, urban renewal projects, restoration and development work as well as sea defence and coastal protection work.