My B&FC: Connor Gelder

SkillBuild competition winner and former St Georges student Connor is loving his apprenticeship with St Annes-based firm Atkinsons Traditional Joinery. 

“I wanted to be a joiner from school," said Connor.

"I did level 2 full-time at the College and then went on to a level 3 apprenticeship, doing four days a week at work and one day at College.

"Joinery’s a lovely trade to be in – it’s difficult at times but it’s so rewarding and there’s plenty of support. I used to be quite shy, but I wouldn’t say I am now.

"I would say to go for it because you won’t regret it. When you take a step back with the customer and see what you’ve built, and they’re thanking you, it’s a lovely feeling."

Here's the full Q&A...

How did you come to be on an apprenticeship?

I wanted to be a joiner from school. I went to College and did the level 2 Bench Joinery course full-time for a year and then I was taken on as an apprentice by Atkinsons Traditional Joinery in St Annes. So I switched to doing an NVQ, one day a week at College, four days a week at work, and then in my third year I’m obviously now doing a level 3 NVQ.

How long have you got to go on that?

I should have been finished but obviously with COVID it means that we were a little behind so I’ve just got to finish up on my Onefile and then there’s an end-point assessment to do as well.

So you’ve got permanent employment now?

Yes.

What made you choose Joinery? 

I did Resistant Materials in high school, which is wood tech, which I enjoyed, so from there I pursued joinery. 

Originally, I did want to be a site joiner but after doing a bit of both it was bench joinery that I took a shining to.

How did B&FC help you to get on your apprenticeship?

My employer got in touch with the College to say he needed someone and the Construction Manager put my name forward.

Which have you preferred?

Oh, the apprenticeship definitely. At work there’s no day ever the same – you’re always doing something else. 

What’s the workload like on your apprenticeship?

There are about 10 units on Onefile on the theory side of joinery – each unit is split up into sub-sections, and there’s about 50 questions per unit I think.

The level 2 is a lot more focused on your practical but as you progress onto the level 3, there’s a lot more paperwork to it but it’s all manageable. There’s not loads.

How often are you in College?

Once a week, every Wednesday. It’s only 12.30 till 3.30 I go into College for a practical session, but at the minute we’re doing our theory lessons on Microsoft Teams at 9 in the morning via videocall.

Was it a shock to the system going from full-time education to an apprenticeship?

Yes, definitely. On the level 2 I went from doing 5 hours a day for 3 days a week to doing 40+ hours a week at work – I’d say it’d be a shock to anyone really because you don't realise how busy some companies can actually be.

What support have you had?

Well, if there’s anything on the Onefile that I don’t know, I ask my employer and he helps me. We also have a skills coach who helps us and tells us what evidence we need etc so there’s plenty of support from both sides.

Has the apprenticeship changed you in any way?

I definitely work better in a team – I used to be quite shy when I first left school, but I wouldn’t say I’m shy now.

What are your plans for the future?

I think I’d be happy if I could make partner at Atkinsons. 

What advice would you give to a school leaver thinking of doing an apprenticeship?

If they wanted to do it, they should go for it because they would not regret it. I would say it does get hard sometimes but I would tell them to just push through because in the end it is worth it… it’s a lovely trade to be in is joinery – it’s so rewarding… when you take a step back and see what you’ve built, if you’ve fitted it into someone’s house and they thank you, it’s a lovely feeling.