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Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020 Presents Scott Cuthbert, Senior Contracts Manager

Back in 1983, Scott Cuthbert joined the TJL team as an apprentice joiner through the Youth Training Scheme, the only path available to aspiring apprentices at the time. Now, 37 years later, Scott remains Thomas Johnstone Ltd’s longest serving employee and shares his commendable journey from Apprentice Joiner to Senior Contracts Manager.








Apprenticeship Journey

I finished school at 17 and went straight into the Youth Training Scheme which at the time was the only path available if you wanted to do an apprenticeship. After a year at the YTS I obtained a joinery apprenticeship with TJL, starting on the bench and learning the trade from my mentor and colleagues.

My training was very hands on, with practical experience day-in-day-out in the TJL factory and once I had the basic trade skills I then moved on to more tool-based learning.

During my apprenticeship I was named “Apprentice of the Year” in 1984 and was sent down to London at the age of 18 to attend the prize-giving ceremony and receive a week of work experience at different contractors. This was and still is a real achievement for me as well as it being remembered as my first time on an aeroplane!

My apprenticeship ensured I was well prepared for working in the “real world” and once I completed my training I was offered a full-time role as a joiner with TJL. As I began full-time work, I was completing projects all over Scotland for contracts with Presto Super Stores and RS McColl’s – you’ve got to remember TJL was a much smaller company back then!

I was lucky that the company saw potential in me and once I began running smaller jobs, my abilities were recognised and I worked my way up the ranks, progressing to Site Foreman. A mere 37 years later, TJL has developed and evolved and throughout all the changes I have been committed and passionate about making the company as successful as possible - this is something I try to instil in all apprentices and employees I work with today.

Talk us through a typical day in the life of a Senior Contracts Manager...

You always arrive with your agenda for the day of what you want to achieve – and that includes everyday tasks such as dealing with e-mails, liaising with clients, strategising and problem solving, maintaining contract reports and reviewing site progress.

Days are often quite unpredictable for me as I can go from being on site, to visiting Head Office and meeting a client in the city centre all in one day but you get used to the changeability as it is the nature of the work in the industry.

“There were less than 20 employees when I started at Thomas Johnstone Ltd and now look, the company is more than ten times that size – it’s more than we could have ever imagined!”

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

I am very proud of my length of service at TJL, dedicating my efforts to my career progression and moving up from that young 17-year-old apprentice to my position as Senior Contracts Manager.

“I wouldn’t change anything about how I’ve got to this point, I just can’t believe it’s been 37 years…”

What makes you proud to work at TJL?

I am proud because we truly encompass our values here at TJL, we put our people first by investing in our apprenticeship programmes, we act with integrity in everything we do, we are totally committed to our customers and we aim to continuously improve our processes and workmanship wherever possible.

What have been some of your favourite projects?

The Bonham Hotel, Edinburgh: 49 bedrooms of sheer comfort and style!

Jigsaw Store, Glasgow: This retail unit presented some real challenges which makes it memorable in numerous ways but overall it was a really interesting job.

Ten Hill Place Hotel, Edinburgh: We manufactured most of the furniture for this hotel which looks brilliant and it is great being back on site doing further works.

Any advice for current and aspiring apprentices?

“We have and need apprentices who want to learn and seize the opportunity they are being given and that to me is true talent – showing that level of commitment and dedication to what you are doing.”

Use your eyes and ears, listen, pay attention, learn from your peers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is my biggest irritant coming across an apprentice who is more than capable but is just not willing to speak up – it’s a hard industry and you need to be driven and willing to harness and nurture your talent.

“Seeing the younger generation coming in and working their way up the ranks makes it all worth it – I feel very proud to be able to help influence these young apprentices and they should be proud to wear a TJL polo shirt.”

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoy what I do here at Thomas Johnstone Ltd – leaving a legacy through the projects we complete and providing opportunities for aspiring apprentices and young adults. When it is time for me to take a step back I know the next generation will be more than capable of ensuring further success for TJL.

“Talent comes in many different forms, my advice would be to find your niche and invest in it – you have the control.”

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