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Leading Leicester specialist interiors and joinery contractor celebrates 90 years of apprenticeships

EE Smith’s youngest apprentice, Spencer Lee and former apprentice, now production director, John Richardson, celebrate 90 years of earning while learning at the company

One of the UK’s leading specialist interiors contractors is celebrating 90 years operating one of the longest running and most successful apprenticeship schemes in the country, this National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March).

With over 70 former apprentices making up its workforce, Leicester’s EE Smith Contracts champions its ‘train and retain’ culture, which routinely sees apprentices progress up the ladder to senior management level. This includes its own production director, John Richardson, who was part of a management buyout in 2016.

John, 48, became a second-generation EE Smith apprentice in 1986, having followed in his late father’s footsteps. He progressed to bench joiner, foreman and then production manager before becoming production director in 2008.

His late father, Basil Richardson, was taken on as an apprentice in 1937, and within in ten years, became EE Smith Contracts’ managing director.

John, who now oversees all factory and drawing office apprentices, says, “I’m proud to be a product of the EE Smith apprenticeship scheme.

“Good apprenticeships are an aspirational option for ambitious, highly talented individuals. It’s a great opportunity to earn on the job and we always promote from within the business.

“Our apprenticeship programme allows us to maintain and boost our skills pool. It is the quality of our scheme along with the firm prospects of gateway roles and onward career progression, that makes EE Smith a destination of choice for top talent in our 100,000sqm Leicester workshops and onsite at builds and fitouts across some of London’s most prestigious locations.”

One person taking advantage of the opportunities is 16-year-old Spencer Lee, EE Smith’s youngest apprentice.

Trainee joiner, Spencer said: “I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to develop a hands-on skill. To work for a prestigious company like EE Smith is a great opportunity and knowing there is real career progression is a fantastic incentive to do your best.”

John stated: “It’s great to see young people like Spencer choosing a career with us. Apprentices allow us to future-proof the business and keep valuable and vital skills inhouse.

“We are always on the lookout for our next senior board member!”

EE Smith works in partnership with both Leicester and West London Technical College and takes on up to 20 new apprentices a year across the factory, drawing office and on site.

Successful candidates get to earn while they learn for a company renowned for its work in fitting out some of the world’s most prestigious hotels and restaurants, commercial buildings and super-prime private residences.

Examples of EE Smith projects where apprentices have developed their skills include: Tom Kerridge’s new restaurant at the ‘Corinthia’ hotel in London; the capital’s largest new hotel project, a 350-bed venue in Leicester Square; as well as installing 453 bathrooms in the Battersea Power Station development.

EE Smith can trace its roots back to a single, small shop in Leicester in 1897. It is still based in the city but now operates in over 100,000 sq. ft of facilities.

The company currently has 300 staff, annual revenues approaching £50 million and a significant forward order book. It has made major investments in cutting edge technology to continue leading the market in the provision of high-quality joinery and interiors in the UK as well as handling several projects overseas. These include £1.5 million to double the spray shop and CNC capacity and further enhance its manufacturing and finishing capabilities.

Its portfolio of past projects is extensive and diverse and includes work on the UK Supreme Court, the Francis Crick Auditorium, The Savoy Hotel in London and the United Airlines Heathrow T2B departure lounge.

John finished: “Apprenticeships are the lifeblood of our company.”

For more information, please visit: http://www.eesmith.co.uk/.