Meet our apprentices

Alex Hopkins

16 September 2019

Carpentry Apprentice

Why did you choose to become a carpenter?

Growing up I didn’t really have any goals and was just wondering through life aimlessly. My twin brother was always really focused from a young age - he was fascinated by electrics. It wasn’t until much later in life that I decided I wanted to pursue a trade. I got some bad advice when I was young and ended up working in a pub. I then studied a first-year course in theology and music. When my wife retrained after having my eldest, I decided it was my turn. After having a long think, I eventually decided on carpentry.

Why did you decide to take up an apprenticeship with Y Prentis?

Coming out of full-time employment was a really hard decision to make. After attending college full-time for a year, I decided that I needed to do an apprenticeship. I looked around for a long time and tried 197 companies. They all said I was too old to be starting an apprenticeship at the age of 40, until Y Prentis came into college one day and ended up being a real life-line.

Where have you been studying?

I have been studying at Coleg y Cymoedd, Ystrad Mynach campus. I’ve recently finished the college side of my apprenticeship and working towards completing my NVQ level 3 in Site Carpentry.

How will your apprenticeship help shape your future?

It’s not just my future, it’s for my kids too. My eldest child has recently seen both me and my wife retrain and change careers. It’s great for her to see us do that, to sit down at night, do our homework and to really put the work in. It will also provide my family with stability and security, as you can always fall back on a trade once you have it. I’m also saving up for a mortgage, so earning while I learn is a big help.

How have you found balancing your apprenticeship with college and your personal life?

If you love what you do, you do what you need to in order to make it happen. At first it was really tough trying to find the time. After work, I have to cook, clean, spend time with the kids, do some charity work as well as having to study, but it’s been so worth it.

How have you found the shared aspect of the scheme?

I’ve learnt a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I had a few issues but being able to talk with Y Prentis made things a lot better. Any problems I had were sorted because I had the chance to sit down with the team and talk them through. I’ve learnt something new at every site. Different sites have showed me that everyone has their own techniques - I never realised there were so many ways to hang a door!

What is the best part of your apprenticeship?

The contractor I’m currently with have been great. I’ve been with them at two different sites but with the same team. We have a lot of banter which makes lunch times great fun - it’s really morale building. Finding the right team is like gold - you can’t buy that. Another huge positive is getting to work with a good chippy, one whose brains I can pick and get to learn a lot from.

What have you learnt since becoming an apprentice?

That so many trades have to work together for all the different aspects to come together. I’m constantly talking to other tradesmen and learning all the time. Also, the site experience itself is a big thing for me - it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before. With 2D I’m also learning drylining techniques, which is great because there’s nothing I learn on site that I won’t be able to use again in my life.

What are you most looking forward to in your career in carpentry?

Being in a permanent and stable job. I think I’ll stay as part of a team for at least the next five years, as working on your own can be tough and I like that I’m able to do a bit of everything. If you’re not challenged, you’ll get bored.

What would you say to somebody interested in applying for an apprenticeship?

I’d advise anyone who’s unsure on their path to take a multi-skills course to make sure you know that the trade is the right one for them. I’d also tell them to do their homework. Find out how much your tools will cost you in the future before starting out. We’re just boys and our toys, we never grow up but our toys just get more expensive! If I could give my younger self advice I would say, wake up and stop meandering. Be better with your money and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Keep following your heart, and train in a trade a lot earlier.

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