I completed a mechanical engineering degree apprenticeship.
My advice would be to look for apprenticeship opportunities with the top employers. These yield the best work-based training and project opportunities. Where Oxbridge/Russel Group may be the full time university heavy hitters, for apprenticeships, Mott MacDonald, Atkins, Arup, et.al., may be the civil Eng apprenticeship equivalent in value.
• Access to work-based facilities (uni often use limited student software licenses and restrict hardware to final year and postgraduate students).
• Internal and external training (20% off-the-job means you may have opportunities to do additional certification like six-sigma).
• End Point Assessment (by the end you will be proven as competent not only technically, but interpersonally. Apprenticeships put just as much focus on developing soft skills.)
• Support Network (you likely would have a qualified work place “buddy”, mentor, supervisor, and manager, all with the common goal of optimising the outcome of your apprenticeship studies.)
• Experience (the work you complete on-the-job will have progressively more real world impact. University modules often lack complexity, the human element, or real world application).
• Exposure (some apprenticeships allow you to rotate around different functions and broaden your skill set).
• Employability (you will have a proven track record of project success by the time you complete your studies).
• Commitment (Can be extremely demanding to keep on top of workload, or may narrow future career prospects - therefore important to ensure alignment with long term career goals early on).
• Pay (starting pay can be 14-20k per year depending on competitiveness).
• Risk of committing (employer may fall short of training requirements, or the apprentice may lose
interest in the role).
• Suitability (If the apprentice isn’t highly proactive, motivated, or doesn’t take their learning into their own hands, they may not get the most out of the scheme).
I didn’t do A levels, choosing to work my way up apprenticeship levels. Saying that, the quality of training I received meant that in my research and development role, I already had 3 academic publications prior to graduating.
If done properly, and unfortunately it isn’t always, it feels like a cheat into high level professional employment.