Could an apprenticeship be for you?

Published: 05 Nov 2015

A facilities management group with strong links to the North Sea oil & gas industry has backed the Press and Journal’s Apprentice 100 campaign.

Richard Irvin Energy Solutions will take on two plumbing and heating apprentices in the north and north-east of Scotland as part of our quest to create scores of promising careers for talented youngsters.

Richard Irvin started out as a north-east fishing fleet 140 years ago but has diversified hugely over the years.

The firm now specialises in facilities management – taking care of buildings’ heating and air-conditioning for clients such as BP and Total, as well as kitting out newly built property with mechanical and electrical systems.

And it has also refurbished and repaired heating systems on oil rigs for the likes of Apache and Ensco.

Contracts for work with oil & gas clients insulated the company from much of the fallout from the 2008 recession, but the company did suffer enough to make a turnaround plan a necessity.

As part of the transformation, Richard Irvin opened offices in Dundee and Glasgow, expanded its Edinburgh branch, and recruited a new business development team.

The measures are reaping rewards. In the first half of 2015, the firm won contracts worth £15million for work at several business parks in Europe’s energy capital, as well as at schools, hospitals, hotels and university halls of residence.

The company has also changed its approach to the way it manages its 400 employees.

HR director Kim Woolner said Richard Irvin has moved away from its “top down, dictatorial style” to give employees more input into the way the company works.

Furthermore, the firm has put apprentices much closer to the heart of the business.

Finlay Alexander

Earlier this year, Ms Woolner’s department put together an apprentice peer support group that meets quarterly to give trainees an opportunity to share their experiences with their peers and raise concerns with the management.

Furthermore, all employees, not just apprentices, now complete personal development reviews, a process which lets them discuss their development with supervisors.

Ms Woolner said: “It’s all about making sure we are supporting these guys. They are our future talent and they’ll leave if they’re not being looked after and made to feel valued.”

Electrician Finlay Alexander, who is in the fourth year of his apprenticeship, has seen what the company was like before, during and after the turnaround.

Mr Alexander said the steps Richard Irvin has taken to help its staff members develop have made a huge difference to life at the firm.

He said: “Things are a lot better now. At the peer group, we can talk to older apprentices and they can help if you get stuck with your college work. It’s a lot easier to speak with peers than with a manager. We did not have anything like that before.”

He said the apprenticeship, which he found out about through Tullos Training, has been excellent as it gives him a blend of experience in Richard Irvin’s main fields of expertise – mechanical and electrical services and facilities management.

He said: “It’s a really good apprenticeship. When you are on site you are given a job, shown once how to do it, and are allowed to get on with it. The foreman trusts you. Some of my friends who have done apprenticeships elsewhere have been mollycoddled, which is not a good thing.”

Apprenticeships at Richard Irvin tend to last three to four years with training taking place at local colleges and training centres, as well as under the watchful eye of the firm’s experienced tradesmen.

Become a Richard Irvin apprentice by sending a CV and cover letter to Kim.Woolner@richard-irvin.com

Back to listing