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CR Smith apprentice working on a construction site

Celebrating Scottish Apprenticeship Week – 2023


By Ian MacFarlane, Managing Director, CR Smith

“Taking on apprentices has always been important to our business. Our very first employee was an apprentice. He was the first of many and now 50 years on, we run our own bespoke apprenticeship programme, such is the value we see in a structured training course that demands high standards of its trainees.”

“There are currently 34 apprentices across CR Smith, including people straight out of school and those looking to retrain. Those who started as apprentices with us and have continued working in our installation teams clock up a combined total of 70 years of service. We even have existing employees who are proud to see their children coming into the business and learning a trade that will set them up with a good career for the rest of their lives.”

“Therefore, when asked, I will always say that loyalty is one of the ‘wins’ of an apprenticeship programme and ensuring both the company and the apprentices get the most out of the experience underpins our approach.”

“Six years ago we established a bespoke apprenticeship programme with Fife College. Because we serve homeowners, we insist on trained joiners to install our windows and doors. A window fitter only takes the job so far, and as a company with a distinct philosophy for product quality and service, only fully time-served joiners can complete a job to our specifications. But we wanted a course that was closely aligned with the demands of our business.”

“To that end, our apprenticeship programme includes specialised course elements. These include working with hardwood timber finishes, learning about wider company standards, and understanding the importance of customer service. We also replaced traditional block release, arranging for our apprentices to attend college in the evenings while they gained the maximum benefit of practical ‘on the job’ learning.”

“Recently, we upgraded our own training workshop with a replica house, designed with everything from awkwardly positioned baths and sinks to narrow hallways, to challenge the apprentices to work in all types of spaces to fit the full CR Smith product range. Assisting the apprentices are two of CR Smith’s longest-serving joiners, who are passing on their expertise to the new recruits.”

“I constantly hear people say that they wish they had trained as a joiner, which is why we are recruiting more adult apprentices. The qualities of a good apprentice at any age will always be enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. We can teach the rest and find where their individual skills complement the wider team. Times have changed since our first apprentice became a time-served joiner, but the value of apprenticeship programmes is as strong as ever. Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a time to celebrate a training scheme that has a significant role in our business and in the development of key skills across all industries.”