Improving public sector diversity through apprenticeships

Posted on: 5 February, 2024

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’re profiling each of the shortlisters from this year’s UCEM Built Environment Apprenticeship Awards.


Name: Morag Watson

Job role: Estates Team Leader

Company: Environment Agency

Category: Public Employer

When Morag joined the Environment Agency as an Estates Team Leader, she knew instantly that she needed to improve the diversity within her team. This was both a personal and an organisational goal: “I want to be able to stand and look around my office and see a team with different backgrounds and skills that better represent the communities we serve”. A more diverse workforce, explains Morag, brings “fresh perspectives” and enables public services to benefit from a wider range of unique qualities.

The first port of call was to widen the recruitment process to include people who hadn’t taken the traditional university route. Setting up an apprenticeship scheme quickly emerged as the most effective way to achieve this, so Morag set about researching training providers who could help shape a new generation of talent. Even though there are numerous providers of surveying apprenticeships – including several universities – it wasn’t long before Morag settled on UCEM.

She explains: “A contact of mine at the Valuation Office recommended UCEM, and gave me some great feedback on their apprentices’ experiences. That was really important to me, as someone who’s previously been through an apprenticeship somewhere else that wasn’t great. I wanted to make sure we were partnering with a provider that would really look after our apprentices and support them.”

Morag has nothing but praise for the team at UCEM and the way they are helping the Environment Agency’s apprentices succeed: “Both my apprentices are excelling. We regularly get feedback as an employer, and everybody really knows their stuff. If I need to talk to the support staff, they’re just a phone call away, ready to put in place whatever support is needed.

“I keep recommending UCEM to other government agencies that employ surveyors – it’s 100% UCEM all the way for me now!”

Morag is keen to encourage other public bodies to consider setting up apprenticeship schemes to diversify their workforce: “Yes, there’s a little bit of extra work in the beginning to get everything set up, but a) UCEM will support you with that, and b) once you’re up and running that initial time investment pays back to you tenfold.”

Being nominated for a UCEM National Apprenticeship Week award was “a bit scary! … This is my passion project, and it hasn’t really felt like work. But I’m really proud that people have recognised what I’ve achieved by setting up this apprenticeship scheme.”

Visit the awards webpage >