A quantity surveyor from leading North of England contractor Esh Construction is heralding the benefits that apprenticeships offer as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2024.

Zak Boagey, 29, was on a path for sporting success after joining Middlesbrough Football Club’s academy at age seven, but when he was released from his pro contract by Hartlepool Football Club, aged 18, the Hartlepool native wasn’t sure where his future lay.

He joined an engineering firm to support with admin duties on a two-month placement before attending an Esh Construction recruitment day a few months later, where a new career pathway came to light. Six apprenticeship courses – at Hartlepool College and New College Durham – and three promotions later, Zak is now a Quantity Surveyor within Esh’s affordable housing division, where he routinely manages large-scale new build schemes ranging from £1.5 million to £19 million in contract value.

He said: “I spoke to the Esh employees in attendance and handed my CV in. I landed an interview and was offered a job, starting my apprenticeship in August 2014. I started as an apprentice on a two-year course and in my second year I was given my first project to run, a small kitchens and bathrooms replacement scheme across the North East. 

“At Esh Group, I’ve been fortunate to have good mentors who took time to train me. The progression was gradual starting with understanding the basics of a Quantity Surveying role and giving assistance on certain tasks to my mentor. Throughout my development, I have learned different skills, responsibility and knowledge, and continue to learn – the industry doesn’t stand still. I have worked on a variety of schemes so far, many of which were formed under different contracts and each project differs in terms of the scope of work and property specification, so you learn about the different construction methods involved.”

From having zero construction experience when starting as an apprentice, Zak has been able to thrive in the sector and has some key advice for other young footballers who face a similar journey to his.

He said: “While it was naturally hard to take, being released was good for me in the long run. The margins for success in football can be very small, so it’s important to have a back-up plan. Even if you don’t know what career path you may be interested in pursuing, it’s important to be prepared in case you don’t make a career in sport.”

“I would say entering the construction industry has been a good experience and career choice for me. It can be a bit of a shock at first going from a sporting environment such as a football changing room to, in my case working in an office environment, but I’ve never looked back on how things have turned out.”

Commercial Manager for Esh’s affordable housing division, John Wilson, said Zak’s development even opened his eyes to the benefits the apprenticeship route offers. He added: “Zak’s been with the company now for just under 10 years and he really is a testament to how an opportunity can lead to a fully-fledged career route if you are determined to succeed.

“Zak has been a perfect addition to our team and watching him develop through multiple promotions alongside his studies has been great to follow. He’s a credit to the company and we’re excited to see how his career continues to grow.”