Why Edinburgh graduate apprentice of year has feet on the ground

Edinburgh’s newly-crowned graduate apprentice of the year has not always been as grounded as she is now.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 7:00 am
Jessica Morris

Jessica Morris, 25, claimed the coveted prize in this month’s Edinburgh Apprenticeship Awards as a graduate building standards surveyor for the City of Edinburgh Council, splitting her time between working within the building standards department and studying at Heriot-Watt University.

But while her work now focuses on the built environment in the Capital, her legs have not always been firmly on the ground, having previously worked for five years offshore as a marine engineer after studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

“I previously worked offshore as a marine engineer, but I was looking for something new and wanted to be back on shoreside,” she said.

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“I was looking at a job in ship surveying when something came up for building surveying, which I thought sounded similar.

“I like routine and I was thinking about my career long term. Working offshore has its challenges and apprenticeships offer the chance to be paid and study at the same time.

“The course at Heriot-Watt is brand new and I was part of the first ever intake of construction and built environment students, which covers a wide range of jobs in the industry.”

Ms Morris said there were a number of benefits which apprenticeships offered, and being able to study and work in tandem helped her understand more.

“Half of my degree is based on lectures and the other half is a work-based portfolio,” she said.

"It is intense as each module has a 40-page report, but the opportunity to learn and study at the same time really compliments each other.

“The theoretical side you get from university transpires into your job role and I find that very motivating that you’re able to see how the theory is applied in practice.”

The highlight of Ms Morris’s apprenticeship so far has been speaking at a Scottish Parliament committee two years ago.

She was offered the chance to speak at the economy, energy and fair work committee to encourage apprenticeships to young people and show what they have to offer.

Passionate about learning on the job, Ms Morris said there had been a change in how apprenticeships were viewed.

“When I was in high school, apprenticeships weren’t well advertised as much as they are now,” she said.

“I think they offer a great opportunity for all kinds of people and there are so many out there. There are full working ones, or ones like mine, where you can study for a degree at the same time.

“I was conscious when I applied that the construction industry as a whole is quite male-dominated, but I’m glad to see more female apprentices being drawn in.

“Apprentices really do work hard and bring a lot to the workplace. The opportunity to work closely with different departments has been good for networking and learning.”

In her role now, Ms Morris is passionate about working to help people within her role at the council. Recently she has been working with a small team, reviewing high-rise buildings and the issues surrounding them, which she said can be “devastating” for owners.

“To be involved in working towards a positive solution and helping people, that’s the best part of my job.” she said.