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Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020 Presents George O'Neill, 2nd Year Joinery Apprentice

We finish this week’s apprenticeship focus with George O’Neill, 2nd year joinery apprentice who is also working on site at Ten Hill Place Hotel alongside Scott and Neil. George tells us his story of moving from London to Glasgow and pursuing his ambition of being a qualified joiner.   


Apprenticship Journey 

Originally based in England, I came straight out of school at 16 and went into my apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing and the practical element made for a really varied and fun working week. Unfortunately, two years into my apprenticeship the company I was working for went into administration and I was unable to finish my apprenticeship. From here I then made the move to Glasgow where I intended to labour for a while until I found a good company to complete my apprentice with and there appeared Thomas Johnstone Ltd.

I started labouring on site at The Edinburgh Grand, TJL’s biggest job to date and my previous experience and hard work paid off as I was quickly offered an apprenticeship at the company by Gordon Cameron, Regional Construction Director and Apprenticeship Co-ordinator for the East.  

“TJL is a supportive place and if you’re keen enough to get involved and learn you will be offered an abundance of help, everyone is very forthcoming.”

What have been some of your favourite projects?

I’ve been really lucky to work on numerous different sites in the last two years, from The Edinburgh Grand as I mentioned, to Gleneagles Hotel, Virgin Hotel India Buildings, Holiday Inn Express, Edinburgh Waverly Train Station. Now I’m at Ten Hill Place Hotel and the list goes on but I feel lucky that I have really enjoyed each site I’ve worked on and the people I’ve been alongside.

“The TJL team show you how to be enthusiastic about and where to direct your efforts.”

What has been your greatest achievement so far in your apprenticeship?

One of my most exciting achievements to date has to be the scribe work I did at The Edinburgh Grand. We cut through the safe I spent three days doing the work for all of the facings in the area we had drilled through. I built all of the framework around the safe and did the panelling work before the French polishers came in and finished it off – it looks amazing!

How helpful have you found TJL in guiding you through your apprenticeship?

It may sound a bit clichéd but I really don’t think the team could have done more for me, since day one everyone has welcomed me with open arms and every tradesman I’ve worked alongside has given me their time and support.

 “Neil and the guys are great for advice and guiding you in the right direction and I really appreciate that.”

Would you say you have faced any unexpected challenges so far in your apprenticeship?

I think my situation was slightly different as I was almost starting my apprenticeship again when I joined the Scottish system - while the actual trade and what I’m learning is the same, the processes and methods differ. My biggest challenge/ fear was probably the transition from working and learning in England, to then moving to the Scottish apprenticeship system but the TJL team ensured everything was as transparent and organised as possible which really helped.

“The apprenticeship programme in Scotland is excellent, it’s similar to the English system but I feel it works even better and of course being at TJL makes it an even smoother transition.”

Any advice to people thinking of choosing the path of an apprenticeship?

I’d say just go for it, it’s a brilliant way to learn whilst gaining invaluable hands on experience which is often hard to come by. Do your research and find a company which you could really see yourself working for because having a strong support system is half the battle. As I say, I love what I do and I love that it’s thanks to a joinery apprenticeship at Thomas Johnstone Ltd!

Final Thoughts

I have two more years to go before I am fully qualified and my plan for the future is to keep working hard and see where my trade can take me. I am confident that with the support of TJL I will have a bright future ahead of me. 

“I feel very proud to be an apprentice, especially at Thomas Johnstone Ltd.”

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