Learning woodwork on the job
To mark National Careers Week, we are highlighting some of the Crafts Council’s Craft Journeys, a series of profiles that demonstrate the wealth of routes into a career in craft. Today’s interview is with Lewis Piggott, who is honing his woodworking skills in-house at a major car manufacturer.
Tell us about what you do
I’m an apprentice in the wood workshop at Bentley Motors, where I’ve learned many hand and craft skills, including matching and cutting veneer, sanding, the lacquer process and polishing.
What attracted you to this route?
Apprenticeships offer a valuable way of gaining qualifications while training in roles. Craftspeople have opportunities in all aspects of building a Bentley – the wood shop; trim, where leather parts such as seats are manufactured; paint, which covers all processes of painting a Bentley; and mechatronics, working on final assembly.
How did you get there?
I studied English, maths and science as GCSEs and achieved a grade C in all three, which was a requirement to start the apprenticeship. Among my other subjects was resistant materials, for which I planned, researched, produced and evaluated a cabinet – achieving an A* grade, as well as taking that learning into my apprenticeship.
What qualifications are you working towards now?
The apprenticeship itself is an NVQ level 3 in automotive engineering. At college, I studied for a BTEC level 3 in manufacturing engineering, along with a PEO (performing engineering operations) level 2. At the factory, I also had the opportunity to complete Bentley’s in-house training course, which included lessons in German, presenting, quality and efficiency.
What have some of the highlights of your job been so far?
I represented the company on a month-long work placement at Porsche in Stuttgart, where I was able to witness the differences between the two factories. I have been part of customer events around Europe where I demonstrate the wood shop processes to fans of the brand. I have also joined the launch team, which works on the Bentleys of the future.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
The biggest for me was studying at college. I’m not a natural academic so I found some subjects difficult, but by working closely with other apprentices, the teachers and a maths tutor, I was able to achieve top marks.
What advice would you give to others considering an apprenticeship?
Go for it. They are an excellent way to learn, work and get paid at the same time, while also being in a position to go straight into a job where you already know what’s required. During the apprenticeship, work hard, be proactive and ask for help if needed.