From education to employment

Family business overcomes skills shortage thanks to tenacious apprentice #NAW19

J Dixon & Sons is a small family-owned business that, until a few years ago, had no plans to employ an apprentice.

But that all changed due to the skills shortage and the tenacious and proactive attitude of Samuel Orchard who secured a successful three-year apprenticeship at the joinery firm.

Overcoming the skills shortage

Owner of the 100-year old joinery business, Jonathan Dixon explains,

“When Samuel approached me about an apprenticeship with the firm, it was his positive attitude and skillset that first grabbed my attention. At the time I wasn’t looking to employ another joiner but because of Sam’s enthusiasm and commitment he persuaded me to give him a trial week, during which he showed his talents.

“By offering an apprenticeship to Samuel we were able to recruit a talented student and support his development, while ensuring that the needs and skills required for the business were fulfilled.

“Having also started out in the industry as an apprentice, I truly believe that the apprenticeship scheme is a vital method of bridging the skills gap to ensure the future of the workforce.” Samuel was eager to go down this route having already studied full time at college for two years and was ready to enter the workplace.

Samuel adds, “Being an apprentice means that you get to work on some really diverse, exciting projects with more exposure to equipment and experienced joiners than you might do in college. In the workshop, I’ve really improved my machinery skills as all our timber is supplied roughly sawn – this is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do as much of in a classroom.”

A passion for joinery

Throughout his three-year apprenticeship he worked closely with the managers at the firm to develop his skills.

Samuel explains, “Each joiner has their own style and preferred ways of doing things. By working closely with them, I’ve been able to learn different approaches and find my own way and style of working. Woodworking is a hands-on craft, and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished a project for a client. I really enjoy that every project is different – it means that you learn something new.”

Samuel completed his apprenticeship in the summer of 2018 and now works full-time at J Dixon & Sons.

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 British Woodworking Federation said,

“Small and medium business such as J Dixon & Sons, are vital to the success of the apprenticeship scheme. By working closely with apprentices to develop their skills and hone their craft, BWF members lead the way and are invaluable to the development and growth of the woodworking sector, and importantly, help us overcome the skills shortage.”

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