CooperOstlund calls for more apprenticeships in environmental engineering

Written by: Johan Ostlund | Published:

Johan Ostlund, director at CooperOstlund – a UK-based gas engine specification and maintenance specialist – discusses the environmental engineering industry’s skills gap and offers advice on addressing the issue.

Following the release of this year’s GCSE results, students across the country are turning their attention to the next stage in their careers. Whether starting at school to study A-levels, undertaking a BTEC course at college or leaving education altogether, knowing the best path to take is often a challenge.

One possibility that is regularly overlooked is the option to undertake an apprenticeship. Personally, I believe this is a hugely valuable path and one which can quickly catapult youngsters to the next stage in their career.

Mind the gap

Despite a record number of students accepting places in UK universities and colleges last year, the engineering skills gap still exists and I believe that this is simply due to a lack of practical experience. Although the rise of high quality engineering courses is seeing the knowledge of today’s professionals increase significantly, their practical application is actually quite limited. Putting theory into practice is seemingly a hurdle that must be overcome on the job.

In fact, from our experience in the installation and servicing of combined heat & power (CHP) engines – with specialist expertise in the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry – we find that the majority of new starters need considerable training and development before they can start working on projects. For a company such as CooperOstlund, which prides itself on providing engineering excellence and offering unrivalled gas engine maintenance knowledge, this need for skills development has always been a challenge – and one that we’re keen to overcome.

Developing the right skills

Working as an engineer for a number of years, I’ve learnt to problem solve – whatever the engineering issue, taking a step back and thinking outside the box is often all it takes. This is a skill I believe is essential for all engineers, and something that our team all practices on a daily basis, but it is developed with time.

We need to prioritise problem solving and identify ways to help young engineers hone their skills early. Apprenticeships and work experience are hugely valuable – building on theory and enabling young engineers to apply their knowledge to real world projects. I believe that supporting these programmes will help to build important skills early – not only making engineers ready for work right from the offset, but also improving problem solving capabilities across the board.


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