I came right out of school at 16 and started my joinery apprenticeship with Jim Darroch and Joe Allan.

It was a very small business back then, just a few tradesmen, but I learned a lot of skills from them, on-site and in the workshop. You end up with a confidence in yourself after the four years that’s hard to get anywhere else.

I didn’t have a background in construction but in school I always enjoyed woodwork. Good teaching and motivated teachers who took the time to encourage me definitely helped.

I guess it’s the same with apprenticeships. That’s why we like to put in the time with them, and it pays off.

A lot of apprentices come to us right out of local schools. Some of them apply direct, or there’ll be a family member, or someone who knows us.

Others will come down in person to hand a CV in, or just to have a chat. It’s really great to see that sort of enthusiasm.

Up to speed

You get to show young people the way you want them to work with an apprenticeship. It’s like teaching in that way. Things have moved on a lot since I started out but those core skills are always the same.

To me, apprentices are the lifeblood of any company. They’re up to speed with technology, and that modernises the way we work.

Lately, some apprentices here set up a Darroch & Allan Facebook page for us. That’s the sort of thing we would never have considered, and they just decided to go and get it done. It shows off our projects and it’s been fantastic for reaching more people.

With the right apprentice you get a motivated, skilled employee, that’s for sure. That’s the type of person you want working for you.

They love to get stuck in and day-to-day it frees up the qualified tradesmen to do other things.

A massive boost

We were absolutely delighted with winning SME Employer of the Year recently. It was a massive boost for us to get that kind of recognition. I don’t suppose we’d ever have been nominated without our apprentices!

I’ve learned over the years that any employer should grab the chance to train apprentices with both hands.

With a little time you can send them away in the morning to do a job and know it’s going to be done right. It lets you get on with running the business.

A lot of our apprentices go on to start their own businesses in the area. We even work with some of them on our own jobs. It’s always good to see them and have a chat to see how they’re getting on.

Some are doing very well and employing two or three guys as well as apprentices of their own. That’s always good to see and it’s reassuring when they do come back to us like that.