Are apprentices “worth it”?

For National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we thought we’d ask our owner and MD Jamie Lovatt the history behind apprentices at WJL, and what he feels the benefits are. WJL has been offering apprenticeships for over 45 years, creating their own talent with both traditional and modern skills, maintaining company culture, and ensuring a steady talent pipeline.

What motivated your company to start offering apprenticeship programmes?

Apprenticeships in their various forms have been key across the industry to ensure a steady flow of carpenters and joiners are entering the trade. WJL Contracts and Winston Joinery before us, have always played their part here. Today, the challenge is to ensure young people are made aware of the great career options available to them following qualification – many of the most senior project leaders in the industry started out as bench joiners.

How long has your company been offering apprenticeships, and how many apprentices have you trained so far?

We’ve employed apprentices for over 45 years, more in some years than others and not all making it through but on the whole we’ve helped around 50 or so new joiners into the trade, as well as a number who have come through administration, white collar and management roles.

In your experience, what are the key benefits of having apprentices within your company?

There is a huge advantage for us in creating our own talent. Not only can we ensure the new recruits are well trained in the traditional skills but we can make sure they understand the newer methods, appropriate for a modern joiners’ shop. Nowadays, this will include an understanding of CAD design as well as CNC work. It also helps to ensure we keep control of our company culture and ethos – something that is difficult to do when recruiting externally.

Have you noticed any positive effects on company culture and teamwork as a result of having apprentices in your organisation?

The culture of the business is protected when we are able to feed our own apprentices up through the management structure and place them in positions of responsibility or influence on and off the shop floor. It provides continuity to recruitment which helps to avoid skill shortage or sudden drop off. This in turn builds certainty and morale which increases productivity.

In what ways do apprenticeships enhance the reputation and image of your company within the construction industry?

Developing our own skill base ensures we are able to offer a consistent, high quality service to our customers. This in turn allows us to attract the best candidates for our apprenticeship scheme. It is a virtuous circle that enhances reputation, improves service and guarantees the future of the business. It also means we are playing our part in bringing much needed skills into the sector.

What advice would you give to other organisations looking to start offering apprenticeships? Would you recommend it?

It’s an absolute must. Build your own, so you’re in control of your own destiny!

The presence of apprentices enhances company culture, teamwork, and reputation within the construction industry. The advice for other organisations is to start offering apprenticeships, emphasising the importance of building their own talent for control and long-term success.

If you’re interested in WJL’s apprenticeship programme, or want to discuss these benefits further, don’t hesitate to get in touch.