To champion this years’ National Apprenticeship Week theme of “Skills for Life”, the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and its members are shining a spotlight on how woodworking and joinery focused apprenticeships provide an alternative route to university and offer a lifelong career.
By sharing the experience and insights of its members, the BWF aims to encourage the next generation to consider a career in the woodworking and joinery sector. The experiences shared by apprentices highlighted how the technical, life and green skills they have obtained set them up for success in their careers.
Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation, said, “There is a misconception that an apprenticeship in woodworking and joinery is only about learning traditional skills. When in actual fact, while we’re really proud of and celebrate our sector’s heritage skills, the industry blends this with the adoption of cutting-edge technologies, and the roles available in the sector are hugely varied – from skilled craftspeople and technical computer-aided design specialists to quantity surveyors and site managers.”
Former apprentices share what they learnt from their apprenticeship
Steven Hudson, Managing Director at H & S Joinery Ltd, started his career as an apprentice over 40 years ago and has since had the opportunity to work on some of the most prestigious buildings in the UK. He said, “I learnt about timber, using hand tools and joining methods initially, as well as improving my numeracy and literary skills, before advancing to machinery use and building construction. I was fortunate to have excellent, committed lecturers and achieved Apprentice of the Year twice, as well as being a Skill Build UK finalist.”
To encourage the next generation into the sector, Steven has trained over fifty school leavers to give them the benefit of his knowledge and experience.
Jason Sefton, Fire Safety Manager (Joinery) at TF Jones Property Services, shared how his apprenticeship led him on a journey from young site carpenter to competent site carpenter, supervisor, and all the way through into management. He chose to do an apprenticeship because he wanted to learn a skill which would allow him to grow and progress in the future and be put to good use in the building industry.
He said: “Completing an apprenticeship can open doors around the world, particularly in joinery as this skill could be classed as a master skill which can be used on any building type. Not to mention the benefits from a financial perspective.”
Richard Kowalski, Technical Manager at Stairways Midlands Ltd, adds: “There are a huge number of opportunities available once you’ve completed an apprenticeship and you can progress into many different fields. You can stay on the tools, move into an office job, become a manager, start our own joinery business – the opportunities are endless.”
David Lewis, Site Joiner at William Holmes (Bala) Ltd, said “One of the key skills I have learnt while doing my apprenticeship is to listen to other joiners,” a skill which has helped him in his role since completing his apprenticeship.
Robert Shaw, Apprentice Bench Joiner at A R Manley, also found that completing an apprenticeship has given him valuable people and life skills. He said, “I have been able to use the knowledge I have learned in my apprenticeship to help other apprentices at college with difficulties they’ve faced – a woodworking apprenticeship helps you develop as a person.”