In the middle of National Apprenticeship Week this week, a joinery production manager at Swindon firm Edmont is sharing his experiences – from starting his career through an apprenticeship scheme to progressing all the way through to taking on and managing apprentices of his own.

After finishing his A levels, Luke Parry went on to university, but it soon became apparent that university life was not for him and he took the decision to leave and start looking for work or training.

“I knew very little about carpentry or joinery but it was something I had enjoyed during school and with my grandfather,” he said.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do but as a 20-year-old I knew whatever it was I wanted to try and build a career of it.”

Luke discovered there was funding available for apprenticeships - all he needed to do was find an employer willing to take him on.

“I rang everyone in the phone book trying to get an apprenticeship and eventually found a placement with the help of the CITB,” he said.

Starting his placement at a small joinery firm, Luke soon completed his advanced level 3 apprenticeship in bench joinery, where he gained a wealth of knowledge and felt like he had found his vocation.

“I have never looked back from that first foot in the door,” he added.

Luke moved to a larger firm, Oakwrights, to a more office based role as an estimator. He continued to progress through the ranks, undertaking further training and achieving a BTEC in Construction and a HNC in Construction in a Built Environment, until eventually becoming a production manager.

Eleven years down the line and Luke is joinery production manager in a large joinery department at Edmont in Hyde Road and is now taking on apprentices of his own.

“I really enjoy my new role and the different challenges it brings,” he said. “Having been through the process myself gives me a real understanding of what the new apprentices are going through and really helps me to push them to ensure that they and us as an employer get the most from the opportunity.

“It’s a continual learning curve but I feel very proud to see them do well and kick start their careers.

“There is such a vast array of roles available within the woodworking industry and it’s really only through apprenticeships that people learn about the opportunities available – whether it’s skilled positions such as bench joiners, machinists and carpenters or more office based roles such as estimators, buyers, CAD setting out or contract managers.

“Starting an apprenticeship opens many doors and allows people to make a fully informed decision about what they want to do with their career.”

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) says the sector has one of the highest ratios of apprentices in the economy.

Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation, said: “Apprenticeships are fundamental to our sector and I don’t see this changing; indeed, the new funding routes open fresh opportunities for career switching and older apprentices.

“The woodworking sector is a key part of our heritage, but also a vital part of our future as people increasingly look to integrate renewable, sustainable and healthy materials into their designs. With technology advancing, both in the material, design capability and in the workshop, it is an exciting time to working in the wood sector.

“An apprenticeship is the ideal way to kick start a career offering structured training whilst also getting hands on work experience in a mentored environment.”