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Ewan 1

Nailing it! Carpentry student Ewan Rookes is a multi-award winner

Multi-award winning carpentry student Ewan Rookes believes the “continuity” offered by York College & University Centre has been vital in the development of his joinery skills.

Ewan, 22, has spent the last six years as a student at Sim Balk Lane, aside from a brief break due to the Covid pandemic.

During that time, he has completed his Level 2 and Level 3 Site Carpentry apprenticeships before progressing on to our Level 4 HNC in Construction & The Built Environment course.

His talents have also been recognised with a series of College, regional and national accolades.

Ewan was named York College & University Centre Apprentice of the Year at our Construction Awards Evening during his first year on Campus and went on to win the Outstanding Achievement Award at the same ceremony in 2022.

That same year, he was presented with a National Carpenters’ Craft Award and the prestigious Joinery Manufacturers’ Association Cup for Outstanding Achievement in the competition, having built a key cabinet.

He received both accolades at a plush dinner, held in London’s Carpenters’ Hall.

Having won a one-day regional SkillBuild competition heat in Hartlepool, meanwhile, Ewan went on to contest the three-day UK final in Edinburgh and placed third after tackling an 18-hour project building a roof structure with complex joints.

The Malton-based carpenter has combined his HNC studies with launching his own business Ewan Rookes Carpentry after serving his apprenticeships with dad Chris, who also studied joinery at York College.

To celebrate Progression Month, we caught up with Ewan, who was quick to stress the benefits of completing every step of his post-16 education at Sim Balk Lane.

“It’s been great that I’ve just been able to develop into the next course because I’ve become accustomed to the tutors,” he explained. “I’ve known them all from the start and it has given me continuity.

“They’ve made me feel comfortable in the environment and, if I’d had to go somewhere else with a different group of tutors who might have different methods of teaching, that might not have been the case. I feel at home at College and I think that has probably helped me learn a bit better.

“My dad also studied at the old building and I feel you learn the basic, fundamental skills at College and the more complex ones on work sites, which is the reason you need both.”

Ewan’s Level 2 Site Carpentry apprenticeship was the first time he had studied a construction-related qualification due to an over-subscribed GCSE course at school and he also enjoyed the more adult environment that College offered him.

“I’d have liked to do Product Design as a GCSE at school, but the course was full,” he said. “So, I didn’t do any joinery at school, but I knew I could learn it at home, which other students wouldn’t have been able to do.

“My dad also bought a house when I was at secondary school and started renovating it, so that really improved my knowledge. I’d get home from school and then help my dad with the plastering on a night.

“I’ve always been interested in tinkering and making stuff and have a desire to help people and, as soon as I finished my last day at school, I started working with my dad. I also wanted to get away from school, because I was bullied a lot and College is definitely better in that respect, because it’s an adult environment.

“There’s not that same animosity that there can be between children. It’s an adult world and I was experiencing that from a young age working with my dad and his friends.

“They were really experienced tradesmen and that has developed how I have progressed as well with the knowledge they have passed on to me.”

Ewan is now combining his HNC studies with running his own business

Ewan is more than willing, meanwhile, to pass on his advice to anybody considering whether to enrol on a Site Carpentry course at York College.

He has been hugely impressed with our newly-opened Construction Centre Extension and enthused: “The facilities have developed over the years and they are very good. There’s also a lot of knowledge in the department and all the equipment you need is there, so you get to do a lot of site practice.

“I found it great for my confidence, too, to get the affirmation from the tutors when they thought I’d done a good piece of work and I treated College like a workplace, because the tutors were a similar age to the people I was working with, and it felt like we were working rather than being trained. We were achieving the goals that they wanted us to achieve.

“My advice for anybody thinking of doing Site Carpentry would be to be determined and make friends, but also retain your individuality to understand what you want to achieve. If you want to achieve a Level 2, I think you will do but, if you want to achieve a Level 3 or higher, you have to put the effort in.

“You should also embrace any opportunities you get, like being asked to do the SkillBuild competition. The Carpenters’ Craft competition was a great eye opener for me, too. I thought I’ll enter it, but never thought I’d win it.”

Ewan is now enjoying success in his professional life, securing a regular flow of work as his reputation grows, with word-of-mouth and his logoed van the only advertising he has needed.

He admits that he has learned the importance of customer relations from his dad, further highlighting the importance of making the most from the workplace element of any apprenticeship.

Along with stud work and timber roofing jobs, Ewan has used his general tradesman skills to diversify into other areas, too, such as window fitting and garage door installation.

Perhaps most inventively, he has built two drones and is certified for commercial flights, which has led to photography work with estate agents.

On the enduring appeal of his chosen career pathway, Ewan declared: “The thing about joinery I enjoy most is that you’re making things all the time and it’s active. You’re not sat at a desk looking at a screen.”

To learn more about out Site Carpentry Apprenticeship Level 2 course, please click here and, for more details on the Site Carpentry Apprenticeship Level 3 course, please click here

More information on the HNC Construction & The Built Environment course, meanwhile, can be found here

For a current list of apprenticeship vacancies, please click here

You can also discuss any of the above courses and all our Construction qualifications with specialist tutors at our next Open Event on Tuesday March 19th (5.30pm-8pm). To register a place, click here