Laings has designs on recruits
Laings in Inverurie is one of the longest established businesses in the Garioch town, 154 years old and with more than 700 years of experience among its 90 plus members of staff.
Walking around the award-winning showroom with director Darren Walker, it’s easy to see why Laings prides itself on being a market leader in interiors and design.
The passion for interiors and design at Laings is obvious. Darren said: “The interiors market is constantly changing, making this an exciting industry to work in. People’s interest in interiors is as strong as ever with the popularity of TV programmes such as Grand Designs. Laings is somewhere people can experience working on those types of projects for real – it’s incredibly exciting.”
Laings is a progressive company with a diverse workforce and a longstanding, solid reputation. Established in 1862 as a plumbing company, it transformed itself into a reputable bathroom design centre in the early 80s.
Now, it is the largest independent bathroom and kitchen retailer north of London and at the forefront of bringing the newest trends and innovative products to clients in the north-east.
The company has grown rapidly over the years and despite the recent downturn in the north-east, Laings continues to grow its customer and client base. Laings believe its success is down to the diversity of its business, the high calibre and commitment of its experienced staff and designers and its long-standing relationships with some of the biggest designer brands in bathroom and kitchen design. Offering staff fulfilling careers is something Darren thinks is important.
“We have always ensured our designers have the opportunity to develop their knowledge through continual training,” he said.
“They are encouraged to look at the trends coming out of London and regularly travel across Europe to learn about the newest products and designs from the continent. The passion our designers have for helping clients to create their dream homes is at the heart of this company. That’s what makes it tick.”
It was this need to find the right calibre of designers that led to the development of the new Laings Trainee Designer Programme, which recently welcomed its first two recruits, 23-year-old Marta Buchala and Steven Smith, 25, with plans to add more to its ranks later this year.
Darren said: “It’s not always easy to find designers who can deliver the kind of quality Laings is renowned for, so that’s one of the reasons we decided to establish a training programme in-house. We want to ensure our designers have the opportunity to get the best training and learn from our experienced members of staff, who have more than 700 years of experience between them.”
The calibre and experience of Laings staff is undoubtable, with three senior designers having been there for more than 40 years, 10 for more than 20 years and 20 with more than 10 years’ service, and the company is keen to ensure that knowledge isn’t lost.
Gemma Burns, Laings’ HR manager, said a key aspect of the trainee designer programme is that they are mentored by one of these more experienced colleagues.
She said: “Trainees are assigned an experienced designer as a mentor to guide them through their training. Stephen is being mentored by Ian Charles, one of our most experienced designers who has been with us for over 43 years. He started off as an award-winning plumber at college and is now a designer who clients return to again and again.
"Marta is being mentored by a supervisor in the DirectLine side of the business, another top designer. So both of them are getting amazing experience passed onto them and knowledge from day one.
“The trainees are given the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects from hotels to individual client homes and commercial building projects with an extensive range of products, from the high end luxury products Laings is known for, to the quality bathrooms and kitchens at affordable prices offered by Laings’ sister company DirectLine.
“Our trade accounts have been growing in the last year, driven by the great offers of products and service in this department. As a trainee Marta will be a key part of this team as they grow this part of their business.”
As for those looking to join the exciting world of design, Darren said a background in design or architecture was ideal.
“However time-served apprentices can also fit in, as our training programme can build on their technical knowledge to develop their design skills,” he added.
“The key is to have a passion for design and for delivering a five-star service to customers. It is a really exciting opportunity for someone to have a fulfilling and stable career in a fast moving design industry.
“In the first month our trainees go straight into learning about our IT systems and design packages.
“They are guided by and learn from their experienced mentor as they gain knowledge and experience in all areas of the job, from engaging with customers to the technical aspects of designing bathrooms and kitchens.
“After nine months to a year they can be designing for clients independently.”
Passion is at the top of the checklist of what the company is looking for in their candidates but they also need to have a design or architectural-related qualification along with CAD skills.
“It’s quite a niche role because we need a designer who can sell and they need practical experience in installation as well as extensive product knowledge,” Darren adds.
“It’s unusual to get someone with all these skills but if they have the basics then we can build on that.
“It’s an exciting industry to be in and Laings is at the forefront of it, so there is a great atmosphere here. There are a lot of young people here learning from and collaborating with more experienced designers and technical experts. That’s what makes our company and service unique.”