Balfour Beatty signs up for first Graduate Apprenticeship with Heriot-Watt



Balfour Beatty, one of the country’s largest infrastructure organisations, has teamed up with Heriot-Watt for its first Graduate Apprenticeship with the University.

Balfour Beatty has a long-standing commitment to nurturing young talent. For example, Leo Quinn the Group CEO, founded The 5% Club back in 2013. The 5% Club now represents more than 500 organisations across the UK, with members aiming to achieve 5% of their workforce in earn and learn positions (such as apprenticeships) within five years of joining.

Supporting Graduate Apprenticeships was a natural progression in Balfour Beatty’s talent development. Their involvement in Modern Apprenticeships has now progressed into Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships – creating natural development pathways all the way through from school age.

For Balfour Beatty, Graduate Apprenticeships provide a new way into degree-level study for individuals who are currently employed or who want to go straight into work from school. Employees get the benefit of equipping themselves with higher levels of academic learning and industry accreditation, which helps them progress as professionals.  Another benefit is the accessibility and flexibility of Graduate Apprenticeships, where an employee can upskill at any age or point in their career with experience being taken into consideration on the stage which they enter the programme at.

Jackie Archer, Head of HR, explains “As an employer we gain the benefit of a more knowledgeable, competent and motivated employee who can contribute to the business whilst studying and upskilling.  It’s a win-win in terms of benefit to both the employee and employer.”

So who is the first Balfour Beatty Graduate Apprentice at Heriot-Watt? Antony Thorpe is currently a Civil Engineering Technician with Balfour Beatty and is studying for a BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering Graduate Apprenticeship. Antony’s story, like many others, is a great example that there is no wrong path to achieving your career goals.

Antony has been with the company for over 2 years now with previous experience in different roles in the construction sector. And before life in construction, Antony actually served with the British Army for 12 years. Before starting the Graduate Apprenticeship with Heriot-Watt Antony was at Fife College completing his HNC in Civil Engineering and completing an SVQ3 in Construction Contracting Operations.

Hector MacAulay, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Scotland and Ireland Regional construction business said: “As an active member of The 5% Club, we are committed to nurturing future talent and providing opportunities for people to develop their skills. There has never been a more critical time to invest in our people, and that is why we’re so pleased to be supporting Antony on his journey.

“Through apprenticeships, graduate schemes and work experience placements, we’re taking another step forward in bridging the skills shortage that our industry is currently facing; upskilling individuals to gain valuable knowledge and confidence as we build the workforce of tomorrow.”

The Graduate Apprenticeship was a natural way for Antony to continue his progression. As he explains “This is the perfect continuation of development for me through not only my personal goals, but also goals set by Balfour Beatty. This course is enabling me to gain both the theoretical knowledge, and also the practical knowledge to become a Civil Engineer.”

Antony has settled in well in his Graduate Apprentice journey enjoying learning new techniques for research and referencing, while also becoming more adaptable. 

Antony is looking forward to the rest of his GA journey “With time, experience and the ability to capitalise on what I’ll learn, as well as additionally having an employer like Balfour Beatty backing me, the opportunities are endless. In the future I would like to be involved and be in a position to move into construction/ project management.”

Jackie Archer sums up why Heriot-Watt was the ideal partner for Balfour Beatty, “Heriot-Watt offers great learning experiences for their students which support both academic growth and personal growth. Importantly for employers, Heriot-Watt is up to speed with the needs of Industry and employers alike.  This linkage into the real-time business environment is critical to have flexibility in learning approaches and flexibility in areas of academic study to meet the needs of a constantly changing and evolving environment.”    

Sandy Murray, Director of Apprenticeships at Heriot-Watt, said “It’s hugely encouraging to see large organisations like Balfour Beatty continuing to invest in developing skills. Maintaining the pipeline of talent through initiatives such as Graduate Apprenticeships is going to be crucial in the recovery of the Scottish economy. We’re delighted to welcome Antony into our GA community and we wish him well on his journey.”


David Aaron