This week, we speak to Shaun Kennedy of Scottish housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes about his apprenticeship as a joiner, the awards he has won and how his career has progressed over the past six years.
Please tell us about yourself and your current role.
I joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in August 2011, straight out of school as a 16-year-old apprentice.
I remember going for my interview in this big building in Glasgow, and I knew from this first impression that this company was the real deal. When I found out that I got the job, I was thrilled to bits – and I still am.
I am now a time-served joiner and completed my Advanced Craft in Joinery and Carpentry in 2014. I also completed an HNC in Construction Management at Glasgow Kelvin College between 2015 and 2017, attending evening classes two nights a week – paid for by Mactaggart & Mickel Homes. This has given me a much better understanding of all aspects of construction, not just joinery. I now understand how all trades work together to craft high-quality homes.
Over the years, I have worked on several of Mactaggart & Mickel Homes’ new developments in and around Glasgow and the West of Scotland. I’m currently based at Polnoon in Eaglesham, which is a really interesting development. A sustainable design approach creates a welcoming community for families and has won a Saltire Design Award for Innovation in Housing.
What duties does your role entail?
I do all aspects of joinery work from erection of kits, walls and roofs, to more detailed, skilled work like hanging doors and fitting skirting boards. I am always thinking about the quality of my workmanship and exceeding the homebuyers’ expectations.
What path did your studies take and was this with a job in housebuilding as a target?
My grandad was a big influence, as he worked in the construction industry, and I always wanted to be like him. I did well at school and could have gone down the academic route if I had chosen to. However, my grandad got me work experience with a shop fitter and that was my introduction to joinery. I loved it and decided to pursue an apprenticeship.
A careers advisor at school told me about a website where joinery apprenticeships were posted and I waited five months to see one appear. That was from Mactaggart & Mickel Homes and the rest is history.
When did the new homes industry first appeal to you, and has it lived up to expectations so far?
At that young age, I was eager for any opportunity to learn my joinery craft. The apprenticeship happened to be with a housebuilding company, and I have been tremendously lucky as it is a thriving sector where great skills are highly valued.
How does the apprencticeship scheme work at Mactaggart & Mickel?
Every college does it slightly differently but at Glasgow Kelvin it is planned to gradually increase your time on site, practising the skills and theory you learn in college:
- Year 1: Four weeks at college, four weeks on site
- Year 2: Two weeks at college, four weeks on site
- Year 3 (Advanced Craft year): One week at college, four weeks on site
- Year 4: All work on site
I had two mentors at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes during this time; the first guided me on the basics of joinery – getting me used to working with wood for a variety of jobs. The second mentor ensured I had the skills for ‘second fix’ work that requires more craftsmanship, mastery of tools and overall experience.
Is there a project or achievement on the job so far that you’re particularly proud of?
I was awarded Apprentice of the Year from Glasgow Kelvin College for three years running. I also was voted Employee of the Year by Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in 2013. In 2014 I won the James Birnie Award for Craft Excellence from the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council.
Day to day, it means a lot to get positive feedback from experienced construction professionals on site.
The contracts manager for Mactaggart & Mickel Homes said this about me: “When you look at a door pack that Shaun has hung you would think that it had grown there. He is naturally gifted in how he handles his tools and there is a flow to his work – the mark of a true craftsman.”
This makes me so proud and I want to continue to learn.
What’s the next step from here?
I have already taken a big step in that I have my own apprentice to train! He is in year three now and doing well.
I am also taking part in Mactaggart & Mickel Homes’ Emerging Leaders initiative which demonstrates the company’s policy to ‘grow their own’. This programme develops individuals with the potential for future leadership roles. Through this programme I am getting involved in areas such as customer service and how we can continue to exceed expectations.
Is there a career position you’re aiming for in particular?
I have a very open mind to future roles. My immediate focus is to keep learning all I can and see where that takes me.
What would you advise anyone considering a similar role to yours?
From talking to friends and other subcontractors on site, it’s clear that Mactaggart & Mickel Homes is one of the best companies to work for in this industry.
Every year they hold a communications day. Every employee attends and gets to hear how the business is doing and what’s coming up in the year ahead.
We also get great employee benefits such as a group bonus scheme and healthcare cover. They are a family-run business and it shows. It feels like we are all one big family who look out for each other.
I have friends who went to university, and others like me who opted for an apprenticeship. For me, this was right path. Not only do you ‘earn and learn’ at the same time but your chances of a job at the end of your apprenticeship are much higher.
My advice would be: don’t automatically think that university is the only path to consider. Apprenticeships can open many more doors.