Essential STEM Skills for Aspiring Apprentices
The word ‘apprenticeship’ is synonymous with skills. After all, apprentices learn skills from those who have been harnessing theirs for years. If you’re currently considering an apprenticeship, you’re probably aware of the specialist credentials it requires - but what about the ones relating to STEM?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths - four sectors that play a critical role in the way we work and live. From these sectors has emerged a set of soft and technical characteristics that we now refer to as STEM skills.
To coincide with the theme for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, Skills For Life, we’re shining a light on seven STEM traits that can level up your professional persona. Here’s what some employers and tutors had to say.
Communicating effectively is one way to make yourself stand out from day one. Over time, it helps you to build positive relationships, understand what’s expected of you and illustrate to your colleagues how they can better support you. “Apprentices who are confident enough to speak their mind help me to meet my responsibilities as an employer”, says David Ford, a course leader at Leeds City College who trains apprentices in commercial hospitality. “Their feedback means I can tailor future training to the skills they need to focus on, ensuring their continued development.”
Change is inevitable in the workplace - the more you adapt to unforeseen circumstances, the better equipped you become when facing challenges. “At the heart of adaptability is a positive attitude”, says Tom Lowther, Production Manager at Byworth Boilers, who hosted Keighley College apprentice Harry Pullman, winner of World Skills UK 2023. “Things won’t always go as planned, but being able to pick yourself up and keep going is an attractive quality that won’t go unnoticed by your employer. Never stop trying.”
3. Collaboration and enthusiasm
Not only does showing enthusiasm foster a sense of pride in your work, it also demonstrates a willingness to learn. “It’s very easy to tell if someone is passionate about their apprenticeship”, says Mark Hoffman, Operations Manager at GSM Valtech Industries. “They interact with others because they want to get the most from their work experience, fostering good collaboration. Enthusiasm has an infectious energy that has a knock-on effect on long-standing members of staff. It’s really great to see.”
4. Intellectual curiosity
The hands-on learning element of an apprenticeship offers many opportunities to broaden your critical thinking skills. “Asking questions is part of the investigative process”, says Assessor & Trainer Nyla Ahmed. “For example, an apprentice who exhibits intellectual curiosity when handling tickets on an IT system will gain a better understanding of the issue and how it occurred in the first place.”
5. Using data to drive your decisions
Being able to make split-second decisions is handy, but there are times when you need to weigh up the evidence. This is where data-driven decision making comes in - a process of using information to help you reach a conclusion, then translating it into actions that lead to a good outcome. “Data-backed decisions have a massive impact on service delivery in the catering industry”, says David. “An inaccurate stock inventory can leave you either short of vital produce or with too much, which leads to waste. On the other hand, reviewing sales data to determine times of peak popularity drives efficiency.”
6. Creative thinking
Keeping an open mind allows you to approach situations with creativity. It could be a brainstorm session, the way you present information, or testing ideas to see which yields the best results. “Creative thinking removes limits and boundaries because you’re looking at it from a different perspective,” says Tom. “Asking yourself, ‘what if I did this?’ could spark the Eureka moment that takes your work to the next level.”
7. Problem solving
Problem solving is the ability to identify an obstacle and come up with a suitable solution. By throwing other STEM skills into the mix, like collaboration and intellectual curiosity, you can make the process more productive. “Being able to address challenges in real-world scenarios is one of the best ways to build confidence in your own ability,” says Nyla. “My advice is to embrace the complication - there really is no experience like it.”