Can you provide a quick overview of your business?
RW Joinery is one of the largest doorset manufacturers and installation contractors in England. We manufacture performance doorsets and bespoke joinery from our workshop based in Cheshire in the North West. Approaching 50 years of experience, offering specification, manufacture and installation solutions for clients across many different industries, including the health, leisure, accommodation and commercial sectors.
When did the business first start recruiting apprentices?
The business was started by two former apprentices, Doug Robinson and Reginald Williams 50 years ago, so the apprentice ethos has always been part of RW Joinery.
How did/does the recruitment process work?
We always try to ensure that we have apprentices/trainees at all levels throughout departments and work in partnership with local colleges and universities as well as advertising elsewhere such as on our website and local job centre.
Once a job description has been written, applications are invited, applicants shortlisted, then interviews are conducted.
An Apprenticeship Agreement will then be agreed with the successful candidate.
How do you help your apprentices settle into the business?
We ensure that all apprentices have a mentor within the part of the business they’re in on a day to day basis. In order to understand the business processes effectively, our apprentices spend time in different areas of the workshop or, if relevant, other departments including estimating, surveying or on site.
How far have apprentices progressed in your business to date?
We have had several apprentices that started out at the company over 30 years ago. They became qualified joiners and have risen through the ranks to first line management positions within the workshop. Such positions involve being in charge of doorset assembly operatives and bespoke craftsman and the day-to-day implementation of health and safety and good working practice including quality, planning and programming.
What challenges, if any, have you found with recruiting apprentices?
It is much harder these days to find suitable candidates as other unskilled employment is available at higher rates of pay. There are no queues around the building like there was 30 years ago! We actively encourage trainees and apprentices to join the business and our record speaks for itself, with hard work and commitment young people can learn a trade for life.
What do you see as being the main benefits to your business?
We have been in business for nearly 50 years, during that time through the apprenticeship scheme and through experience of the business, we have gained a lot of skills and a lot of experience in the product through a variety of different people down in the workshop. For the longevity of the business we need to ensure that these skills are not lost. That goes part and parcel with apprenticeships because we need to ensure skills we have learnt are passed on, by mentoring in the workshop and on site.
The main benefit of having apprentices is that you do not lose that skill base, instead you are ensuring it continues. You are mentoring an apprentice with someone that has a number of years of experience and is passing that on directly. That is a win win situation for the company
In terms of how important they are to our business they are very important. It’s almost the lifeblood of this business
Do any apprentices stand out for you in terms of what they’ve achieved?
Through RW Joinery we have had a number of apprentices that have been with us getting on for 30 years and more. Currently two of our three team leaders, Dave Lee and Andy Harrop have moved into first line management, both started as apprentices.
- Dave Lee – Team Leader, Assembly, workshop based
Started 9 April 1981 – Qualified joiner who rose through the ranks to the position of team leader in charge of our doorset assemble operatives.
- Andy Harrop – Team Leader, Bespoke Joinery, workshop based
Started 7 Jan 1983 – Qualified joiner who rose through the ranks to the position of general workshop supervisor. Still has a senior supervisory role, but is also the direct team leader for the operatives involved in making our bespoke joinery products. Andy also assists our H&S coordinator with the day-to-day implementation of H&S rules.
They have both achieved so much within the company and are vital in not only making new apprentices welcome, but are examples to future and current apprentices of the progression opportunities that are available to them at RW Joinery.
(Dave Lee and Andy Harrop are pictured in this case study, with new apprentice Jake).
What are your ambitions for the future of apprenticeships in your business?
We are looking for people to progress consistently because it helps the business grow, it encourages the individual to remain within the organisation and therefore we are not losing the skill set that we have worked hard to train. Providing they have drive and ambition to move forward there are no limitations here at RW Joinery.