11th February 2021

National Apprenticeship Week: From Apprentice Joiner to Works Manager

We're taking a trip down memory lane with former apprentices David Cochrane and Angus MacDonald.

In support of National Apprenticeship Week, we’re taking a trip down memory lane with Angus MacDonald and David Cochrane. They both started their careers with us as apprentices and now have a combined 62 years’ service with the company.

David Cochrane, Works Manager 

Having left school at 16, Dave was keen to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was a Safety Officer for Sir Robert McAlpine at the time. He was given the opportunity to carry out a two-year apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery on a government Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which back then was introduced to encourage construction companies to take on apprentices and pay their weekly wage of £26.50 for the duration of their training.

Having impressed in his first year on site, Dave's YTS scheme was cut short and he was given a permanent contract at Sir Robert McAlpine. Dave describes his years as an apprentice as "some of the most enjoyable of [his] working life".

At the age of 26, Dave was given the opportunity to run his own team of joiners on the Grand Cascade at Alnwick Gardens as a Chargehand.

"This project was and still is the most enjoyable job I have had the pleasure of working on," says Dave.

"Building a water retaining structure with differing radii on a hillside proved to be an extremely difficult task. I was lucky to be working alongside an excellent young setting out engineer at the time!"

It wasn't long until David was offered the role of Foreman Joiner on our intu Metrocentre contract.

"The step up from a predominantly site based role to a position managing people was quite daunting and I had to learn fast what was expected from me."

Thankfully, Dave was able to draw on all the advice he'd been given over the years from colleagues during his time as an apprentice, joiner and chargehand, advice he is still grateful for to this day.

Having successfully carried out his Foreman role on a number of different projects over 10 years, David went on become a Works Managers on our contract for Universal Pressings (Unipres) which consisted of two extensions to the firm's plant and a press pit.

More recently, he's been involved in the refurbishment of shopping centres ​including Metrocentre and intu Eldon Square as well as making a return visit to Unipres and working as part of our team at The Core or Newcastle University.


Angus MacDonald, Works Manager

Back in 1992, Angus started out as an apprentice joiner, gaining first-hand site experience whilst studying at Newcastle College.

During this time, he developed skills in first fit joinery (the construction of wall studding, roof struts door frames and floor joists) as well as second fit joinery - the finishing work performed as part of a project.

Three years later, Angus became a fully qualified joiner and went on to work on various projects across the North East including Nissan, The Discovery Museum and Phase 1 & 2 of Alnwick Gardens as well as The Gate, where he became a Chargehand Joiner. Shortly after that Angus was promoted to Foreman Joiner on Wallbottle High School and worked on even more high-profile projects such as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Climbing the career ladder, Angus landed his first Works Manager role at Cruddas Park, a redevelopment project for Newcastle College. He then went onto Newcastle Airport, where he worked on the redevelopment of the duty free areas, The Sill in Northumberland, The Gates Shopping Centre in Durham and intu Broadmarsh in Nottingham.​

Fast-forward to present day where you can find Angus working on our Ilona Rose House in London as a Works Manager.

Read more about our project here >>

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