Bradley Matthews undertook his carpentry apprenticeship with Comserv and completed a Carpentry and Joinery NVQ level 2 in September 2013. In this article he talks to us about his learning experience.

Why did you choose the construction industry?

I knew I wanted to work with my hands as I wasn’t very academically-minded. I didn’t want to be in a job where I’d be sat behind a desk.

Why did you choose this apprenticeship and what other options were you considering when you made your decision?

When I was aged 15 in Year 10 at school, I completed two weeks work experience at Comserv. I got to go out with an Operative and see and help with lots of different jobs. When I saw the kitchens and woodwork jobs I was hooked and knew that Carpentry was the route I wanted to take.

What are some practical skills/techniques you've learned?

A Carpentry and Joinery Apprenticeship begins with simple repairs like changing locks, repairing skirting boards and architraves. You then move on to more complex tasks like fitting kitchens and bathrooms.

What are some of the social skills that you've learned?

My social skills have improved tenfold. Going into tenants’ homes, you are meeting new people from different backgrounds all the time. I have so much more confidence than when I first began. Learning how to manage an unhappy tenant is a skill. I’ve learnt to speak to them calmly and I know that if I explain carefully what I can and can’t do I will generally win them over. It can be difficult as the tenant has expectations of what he or she thinks we should do, and we have specific guidelines for the work that PCC employs us to do and the two are not always the same. However, we usually end up ‘meeting in the middle’.

How was your working relationship with the other Operatives whilst you were an Apprentice?

I worked with lots of different Operatives when I was training. They were always very helpful with everything I needed. In particular, Scott Owen supported me a lot with kitchens and Carl Williams assisted me with bathroom fittings and Disabled Facilities Fittings (DFG’s). Again, this helped to improve my confidence and social skills. Once I went to work on fitting a kitchen I never looked back – I really enjoyed it and kitchens have been my main jobs ever since.

Once you finished your apprenticeship, how did you feel when you were offered a permanent position at Comserv?

Happy! By the time I’d passed my Apprenticeship I felt confident to go out on my own. Even though I knew I was likely to be offered a permanent position, there was still an element of doubt in the back of my mind. I was so pleased when the offer came in.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to a school leaver or someone who is considering a career/education change?

I would 100% recommend an apprenticeship to anyone, whether they are a school leaver or someone looking for a second career. It gives you both qualifications and experience. I have friends who have been to University but they can’t get a job.

I love my job. It’s different every day. Even if I fit two kitchens in a row, they are all different. So the work is always fresh and not repetitive at all.

How long have you been a Multi-Trade Operative for?

I’ve been an MTO for 5 years – the time has flown!

Are you helping to train/have you helped to train new apprentices? If not, would you like to?

I have helped to train new apprentices, and I’ve enjoyed that too. I understand the questions that they would ask me as I’ve been in the same boat, and it’s great to feel that I’m helping to train the next generation of Carpenters. My most recent Apprentice has just started to go out on jobs on his own, and that’s very rewarding too.

You helped to assemble picnic benches for a local school recently. Have you worked on any other community projects? Do you enjoy supporting your local community with your work and would you like to do more of this?

Some time ago, I helped to replace some broken fence panels in a play area at a Community Centre in Portsmouth and found that rewarding.

The school really appreciated our help in assembling the picnic benches. They made us cups of tea and bought us sandwiches, which they didn’t have to do but we could tell they were happy we’d gone to help.

I do enjoy working on the community projects as again, it’s something a bit different. I would like to get involved with more jobs like this if they come up.