Case study

Studying while working is the perfect blend for mineral products apprentice Sarah

Now a graduate from our Mineral Products Technician Higher Apprenticeship with Aggregate Industries, Sarah Howarth reflects on her experience, including why she felt an apprenticeship was the best option for her.

Finding the perfect route for me

Fresh out of college, Sarah successfully achieved three A-Levels in Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science and an AS in Biology. Sarah knew she wanted to carry on with her education but wasn’t sure what route she wanted to take. She says: “I knew I wanted to stay in education in some form, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, whether that was university or a higher apprenticeship.

At college, I was encouraged to apply to university using the UCAS system and my lecturer told me that higher apprenticeships in the geology field didn’t exist. Perseverance showed this not to be true! I liked the idea of earning while learning and getting hands-on industry experience as part of my qualification. I found out about the Minerals Products Technician Higher Apprenticeship vacancy with Aggregate Industries and the University of Derby through the National Apprenticeship Database.

The apprenticeship was still linked to Geology in some respects, but also gave me an insight into other aspects of Mineral Products which has provided me with a well-rounded knowledge and experience in the industry.”

Mineral products apprentice Sarah Howarth standing on Caterpillar machinery

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mineral Products Technician Higher Apprenticeship so far. Being site based at Westleigh Quarry has helped develop my learning by working alongside specialists in the industry.

Sarah Howarth
Apprentice with Aggregate Industries

Benefits of studying an apprenticeship

Sarah began her journey as a Higher Apprentice with Aggregate Industries. She explains: “Aggregate Industries want their apprentices to learn all areas of the business, get involved on sites and help managers. This gives you the experience you need to be successful.

For example, at the start of my apprenticeship, I spent a lot of time shadowing managers, blasting experts and the maintenance team. Further on in my apprenticeship, I was given more responsibilities on-site as well as managing my own projects. As I moved into my third year, I was given responsibility for the transportation logistics of a Superquarry and branch out into Quarry Management.

Being able to explore different areas of the business has made Sarah fall in love with her role and Higher apprenticeship. She explains: “Every day is different and that’s what makes my job and the apprenticeship so enjoyable. One day you could be exploring an asphalt plant and on another, you could be helping out on a blast.”

How the apprenticeship has helped Sarah's career

Now, recently graduated and looking back on her apprenticeship experience, Sarah is happy she took the apprenticeship route and feels that she took the right step in both her education and career.

She says: “Many of my friends who have recently finished their degree are currently doing odd part time jobs as they are struggling to find a job suitable for them. But, thanks to my apprenticeship, I now have qualifications and a full-time role in an industry I love.”

The apprenticeship curriculum has also provided Sarah with a deeper understanding of the industry, helping her to produce better quality work. She states: “Having the university knowledge over the last few years has also been so useful in the workplace. It has taught me a lot of in-depth information about the quarrying process on site as well as learning about other aspects of the business. 

For example, I am currently based at a quarry and have developed my knowledge about where our materials end up (concrete, cement, and asphalt and building/infrastructure. We also learnt about other processes such as the restoration of sites as well as different types of quarrying, giving me a broader aspect of what I am learning and doing at work.

Aggregate Industries has also developed and supported my career trajectory by putting me through various courses such as the Ignite Future Leadership Programme and Women in Construction, both of which I wouldn’t have received if I had gone on to a traditional degree."

Working in a male-dominated industry

Typically viewed as a male-dominated industry, Sarah was the only female in her year on her course and is now the only, out on site, female at the site she is based. She explains: “When I started working at Aggregate Industries, I was the only female to be based out on site. It was quite daunting at first, especially entering into an experienced, male-dominated industry. But I have not had one bad experience. In fact, I am now beginning to step into management, and everyone has been so supportive. I couldn’t fault my experience at all.”

Next steps

Now that Sarah has finished her apprenticeship, she is aiming to become part of the management team of the two sites she is currently based at. She says: “Going forward, I am beginning the transition into management and I’m currently a Trainee Assistant Quarry Manager.”

Sarah is also considering studying further to achieve her full honours in Minerals Management. “As I have now completed my Higher Minerals Product Technician Apprenticeship, I am able to complete the BSc (Hons) Minerals Management (Top up) degree to get my full honours’ degree. As I step into management, this qualification will help me to prepare to become a manager and leader within the mineral products industry.”

Are you considering studying Mineral Products?

Sarah recommends: “Do something you enjoy. Don’t let stereotypes or anything get in the way of what you want to do. Whether that’s studying in the Minerals Products Industry or not, do something you enjoy as it’s a job you will potentially do for a long time.”

A group of students in orange high vis in a quarry

The Mineral Products Technician Higher Apprenticeship

Find out more about this apprenticeship, including what it entails and the type of roles it prepares you for.

View the Mineral Products Technician Higher ApprenticeshipView the Mineral Products Technician Higher Apprenticeship