Alfreton-based Gowercroft Joinery is recognised by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) as one of its many members who are champions of National Apprentice Week (March 4th – 8th) thanks to its successful apprentice programme.

The specialist high end timber window and door manufacturer has seen many apprentices pass through its hands over the years, with some rising to senior positions with the company and even winning national awards.

Simon Gayton, manager of the workshop floor at Gowercroft Joinery, started his career as an apprentice in 1990 and is now helping today’s apprentices, such as 20-year old Brad Shirley start their careers. Here they tell their stories:

A different path to management

Sharing his pathway to his current role, Simon said, “After leaving school, what I really wanted was to get a job that would bring in money and be the start of my career – and my woodworking apprenticeship has definitely delivered. My apprenticeship was at a pine furniture manufacturing company and since then I’ve gained experience and had opportunities as a joiner, cabinet and furniture maker, and now as Production Manager for a high quality window and door manufacturer.”

Progressing up through the company and taking on more responsibility for problem solving, Simon believes that his ability to quickly identify the source of problems and resolve them is due to the beginning of his career.

“The hands-on nature of the apprenticeship means that you very quickly learn and develop a detailed knowledge of timber, which means that you can breakdown and understand a challenge, and importantly, solve it,” he adds.

Simon is now responsible for managing a team of supervisors, 30 employees and is currently overseeing a machinery upgrade worth more than £350,000 at Gowercroft Joinery, a BWF member at the forefront of innovation within the joinery sector.

Explaining why he chose a career in the woodworking industry, Simon said, “I enjoy working with a material that is real and provides different challenges every day – it keeps you on your toes and makes each day different and interesting.”

Encouraging the next generation

Taking on an essential role within Gowercroft Joinery, Simon also supports the company’s current apprentices and maintains relationships with local schools and colleges to encourage the next generation into the woodworking sector. The company currently employs two apprentices and supports their development for three years in partnership with local colleges.

A third-year apprentice at Gowercroft Joinery, Brad Shirley explained why he chose an apprenticeship, “One of my favourite GCSEs was in Product Design, so I wanted to get into a career where I could design and make products. Before looking for an apprenticeship I started doing A-Levels because I didn’t think that there would be any businesses local to me offering a woodworking apprenticeship – but my college helped me find Gowercroft Joinery and its only five minutes from my home!”

When he completes his apprenticeship in a year’s time, Brad hopes to continue his career as a bench joiner before moving into site joinery. Brad added, “Through my apprenticeship I learn something new every day, and from when I first started shadowing joiners, through to now and two years in, I enjoy my job every day – sometimes it even feels like a hobby.”

For the future apprentices

Apprenticeships are vital to the woodworking sector and provide a route in to a diverse and passionate industry. Discussing the benefits of apprenticeships, Simon added, “Through the apprenticeship you see the students develop in confidence and skills, and not only in work – they look to how they can use their skills at home, and you can see the passion for the woodworking craft really shine through.”

Brad initially found it challenging to find an apprenticeship, but after support from his local college, he found the right company for him. For students looking to start an apprenticeship he offers this advice: “Choosing an apprenticeship is not just a year-long placement, it’s three years where you’re learning at college and on the job to get important qualifications so don’t just go for the first one you find. Find the right fit for you, the people at Gowercroft are supportive and fun to be around, and the projects that we work on are varied – so it’s the right environment for me.”

This is just one story from a British Woodworking Federation (BWF) member sharing how an apprenticeship is a stepping stone into a long and successful career. Woodworking is an extremely diverse and talented sector with design, production and management roles, as well as office-based marketing and sales roles, so it’s unsurprising that the sector has one of the highest ratios of apprentices in the economy.

Helen Hewitt, CEO of the BWF said,

“Our members lead the way and offer leading apprenticeship schemes that support the development of the next generation of talented woodworkers. Firms such as Gowercroft Joinery are essential in the growth and progression of our sector, and it’s great Simon and Brad’s passion for the industry and apprenticeships can help today’s students on their journey into our enthusiastic and skilled sector.”

Andrew Madge, MD of Gowercroft Joinery said:

“As a local company rooted in Derbyshire for the whole of its 20-year history, Gowercroft is committed to investment in the local economy through its programme of apprentices and we are delighted that one of our many talented trainees even won the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ prize in the 2017 BWF awards.”

For more information about how get started on an apprenticeship scheme in the woodworking industry or to find out how to take on an apprentice visit  

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity…

Ways to Become Qualified in Education & Training, Assessor and/ or IQA Qualifications. - Axiom Dynamics

Every day at the Axiom Dynamics Training Academy, we receive enquiries about the various online formats for our delivery of Education & Training (AET), Assessor…

Axiom Dynamics has liked Axiom Dynamics's Profile 58 minutes ago
SERC has published a new article: College Eco Committee Tackles Littering with Babbling Bins 1 hour 29 minutes ago

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page