Meet our apprentices

Ryan Smart

18 April 2019

Carpentry Apprentice

Why did you apply for a carpentry apprenticeship with Y Prentis?

I did a little bit of carpentry at school and really enjoyed it. I enjoy making things and a career in carpentry means that I get to make something every day. I chose an apprenticeship because it was the best way for me to learn all aspects of the trade for myself and to become fully qualified. I also enjoy using all the different tools - I may not have been able to get that experience if I hadn’t taken an apprenticeship.

What qualifications are you studying towards?

I’m studying towards an NVQ Level 2 in Site Carpentry, at Coleg Gwent Newport City centre campus. I have completed the theory for my NVQ, so I only need to attend for assessments now.

What contractors have you worked with on your apprenticeship?

I’ve worked with Laing O’Rourke, Jehu and now A P Waters. I didn’t expect to be moving around from contractor to contractor, but I really like it because it means I get to meet lots of different people and work on some interesting projects.

What site are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on the restoration of Bethlehem Chapel in Blaenavon. This particular project will not only be great for tourists in the area but give peace of mind to those who use the chapel every day. There are eight other sites around Bleanavon that form part of the lottery funded heritage project and I think as a whole it will help to boost tourism to the town.

Did you know about Blaenavon Heritage Centre before you started work here?

I had only heard of Big Pit before I started on this project, which I had visited on a school trip when I was young. At first, I didn’t realise that the whole town was a heritage site, but I’ve learnt a lot more about the town since I started working here. I think it’s important for young people to learn about the history of the area to make sure that we don’t lose the stories once the people who have lived and worked here in the past are no longer around.

How does working on this project compare to a more traditional “new build”?

Some aspects are really different. It can be a much slower process as we need to seek permission before we start on any new piece of work - a process which generally quicker with a new build. We’re also reusing a lot of materials from the original chapel. At the moment, we’re reusing the wood from the old pews to build the new ones.

I had never really considered conservation work before I started work here. I assumed I would always be starting new projects from scratch, but I would definitely consider it now. Although heritage work is becoming more and more in demand, not many carpenters are trained to work on these builds so it’s a really good skill to have!

What has been the best part of your apprenticeship?

I’ve enjoyed meeting everyone on site. Moving from contractor to contractor means that I get to meet lots of people, and now that I have come to this site I’m working again with friends that I met on other sites. Working on site is a lot of fun and there’s always someone to have a laugh with.

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