When Shetland Islander Jack Meadows was at Anderson High School, he couldn’t decide between a career in journalism or joinery.
The 19-year-old preferred working with his hands and is now a Modern Apprentice furniture maker with craftsman Cecil Tait, at Paparwark Furniture. Modern Apprenticeships offer people opportunities to get a job, get paid and get qualified in a range of sectors from construction to the creative industries.
Cecil has employed apprentices previously and wanted to give another person a start in the industry.
He said: “I like the idea of passing on my skills and helping young folk get a start in their career through an apprenticeship. They bring energy and I wanted to get someone who was enthusiastic and keen to learn.”
Cecil gave Jack a trial and could see they would work well together.
“Jack is enthusiastic and interested and he has his own ideas, which has helped the business,” he explained.
Jack had been working as a fencing contractor and heard about the apprenticeship opportunity through a former colleague.
His apprenticeship means he was working, learning and earning while gaining the detailed skills needed to work with Cecil on producing Paparwark’s innovative designs, using traditional techniques.
Jack said: “When I left school, I decided that I wouldn’t jump straight in to college or university and I wanted to do something where there was equal value put on practical learning.
Jack, from Sumburgh, recently spent four weeks in Norway working as part of the Erasmus+ programme which provides skills opportunities for young people across Europe.
“The programme gives people from different parts of Europe the chance to spend time in other countries, doing work that suits their apprenticeships,” he explained.
Jack added: “I went to Norway with two joiners, a care student and an IT student. I worked in a factory producing furniture. It was a big operation, with more of an assembly lines approach. The people who worked there were very welcoming and made my experience that much more enjoyable.”
It’s clear that Jack prefers working on the bespoke furniture created at Paparwark as it gives him a chance to combine learning from two-week blocks at Shetland College with learning in the creative environment of his workplace at Ireland, Bigton.
Janice Leask of training provider Train Shetland said: “Jack is a very enthusiastic apprentice who thoroughly enjoys his work.
“Everything is dependent on the reputation of his employer’s products and Jack is keen to learn and his work meets the exceptionally high standard that is required in hand made furniture production.