Apprenticeship Opportunities with Simon Thomas Pirie Ltd

We are hoping to welcome an apprentice to our team each September. Candidates will need to be aged 16 to 18 on 1st September of the year they start and this is why we advertise early – young people in that age group who are in school or college will already be considering their options for when they leave. Most of them only have 2 terms before their public exams and once they are into the intense exam period they will rightly be concentrating on those.

What qualifications are required?

There are no specific qualifications required other than an interest in design and how things work and a willingness to muck in and work as part of a team. However, a design related GCSE or A Level could be an advantage. Maths and English at GCSE would also be beneficial but the apprenticeship covers basic skills in these areas so this is not essential. We are more interested in a passion for practical working and a genuine desire to learn the skill of cabinet making.

How do apprenticeships work?

There are several models for apprenticeships but the one we have chosen is the block release model. Working with our education partner,  Rycotewood Furniture Centre at City of Oxford College, our apprentice will spend 2 years working a full week at college followed by 5 weeks completing tasks while working with us throughout the academic year. This provides the trainee with intensive skills training, learning from very experienced tutors how to use all the usual hand tools and machinery along with some more unusual techniques and equipment. They will also learn about interpreting design drawings, the properties and dangers of various types of timber and health and safety in the workplace along with functional skills. Apprentices will be set several tasks and assignments to be completed back at the workshop and will be given time to complete this and support where required having a workshop mentor to help with the practical tasks and guidance from our resident ex-teacher, Bridget, for the written work, however apprentices will be expected to complete the majority of their written work independently in their own time, approximately 2 hours a week.

What qualification is awarded at the end?

On completion of the course, the apprentice will be presented with an NVQ Level 2 certificate awarded by ‘ACHIEVE + Partners’. This is a government recognised awarding body and is therefore accepted by all future employers as being equivalent to 5 GCSEs at Grades 9-4 (A*-C). In the furniture world, evidence of training at this level by Rycotewood is highly prized. If our apprentice is successful in achieving their Level 2, we may consider supporting them in working towards Level 3 (2 A Levels) or even further…

The college is in Oxford, how does that work?

As the college is in Oxford,the apprentice will be required to stay in vetted and approved family accommodation provided by Oxford Homestay and paid for by us during periods of block release. It also means that they will have the opportunity to get to know and socialise with other young people with similar interests and be able to discuss ideas, swap experiences and work through challenges together.
Teaching begins after lunch on Monday and finishes at lunchtime on Friday giving trainees ample time to travel on Monday morning and Friday afternoon. For the first block, if parents are not able to support with transport, Bridget may accompany the apprentice on the train and help them to navigate their way to their accommodation and then to the college. From then on, they will need to be confident enough to make the journey on their own.
Meals are provided by the host family.

What about pay and holidays?

For at least the first 6 months, an apprentice will be paid at the national rate for apprentices which varies according to their age. After 6 months, a progress review will take place and they may be offered an increased rate depending on their commitment to their training and the contribution they are making in the workplace. Performance reviews take place every 6 months but pay increases are usually only offered annually unless it is felt that the apprentice has made an exceptional contribution to the company. It is predicted that, assuming the expected progress has been made, by the time they have completed their course, they will be already be paid above the national minimum wage.
Apprentices are entitled to the same amount of holiday as any other paid member of staff but for them, because of the link to an education provider, they will be limited to taking their leave during the college’s holiday so as to make sure that they do not miss valuable teaching time and do not fall behind on assignments. Statutory leave is 28 days which includes Bank Holidays and compulsory workshop closure between Christmas and New Year.

Apart from a qualification, what else does doing an apprenticeship at Simon Thomas Pirie offer?

• The chance to work for an award-winning, creative designer.
• A supportive yet challenging working environment in which to hone their making skills.
• The chance to work alongside and learn from some of the very best cabinet makers you could ever find.
• The opportunity to pursue a particular area of interest, such as timber finishes, veneering, site fitting or CAD drawing.
• A wage in line with the current government guidelines on the payment of apprentices. Our apprentices’ wages are reviewed every 6 months and are performance related. You’ll be earning while you’re learning!
• Following the successful completion of the NVQ Level 2, they may be offered the chance to study for Level 3 and/or a permanent contract with a competitive salary. This will be reviewed every 12 months and is also performance related.

Have you had apprentices before?

Yes we have! Our first (and, to date, only) apprentice joined us, aged 18, straight from school. Tom had studied design at A Level and came to us for a couple of weeks work experience while still in the sixth form. At that time we were only toying with the idea of an apprentice but Simon was so impressed with him that he asked if he would be interested in joining the team, training and gaining a qualification at the same time. The answer was a definite yes so we found a college provider and put the wheels in motion to make sure we were all ready to hit the ground runnning the following September. At that time we used a different training provider using a different model which didn’t work quite as well for us but Tom worked really hard and passed his NVQ Level 2 with flying colours. He is still with us 7 years later and will be one of those working alongside a new apprentice to help and support them.

OK, I’m interested! What do I need to do next?

The first thing to do is to visit our website and blog and check out our social media, Facebook and Instagram in particular. Take a close look at the type of thing we make, read some case studies and familiarise yourself with our latest news.
If you’re still interested, contact Bridget on with your contact details, a CV if you have one and a little bit about yourself and she’ll get back to you to arrange a time to meet the team and have a chat with Simon and John.

When’s the deadline?

There isn’t one!
We believe in finding the right person. If you’re it then you’ll be offered the chance to become our apprentice!
If you find that we’ve already appointed before you contact us then you are welcome to try next year (as long as you’re still eligible) or we can point you in the direction of other makers who may be looking to take on an apprentice.