Gavin looks to the future & tells his story of Career Progression at Specialist

During National Apprenticeship Week we caught up with Gavin Tallon a 2016 Graduate of the Specialist Academy to find out how his career has developed.

Meet Gavin Tallon, Estimator and Former Academy Apprentice

Gavin Tallon became part of the Specialist Family in September 2015 when he joined the Specialist Academy for his introductory year.

After the completion of the course he joined our Specialist Veneer House to learn more about the technical engineering of our bespoke joinery products.

Gavin was given the opportunity to apply for a position within our Estimating Department and he joined the team in April 2017.

Career Development Route

  • Attended St. Patrick’s College, Maghera.
  • GCSE subject choices – Maths, English, Double Award Science, Technology, IT, History, Art, Irish.
  • Completed  BTEC National Dipolma in ICT at Northern Regional Colllege.
  • Attended Ulster University to study Interactive Multi Media Design.
  • Joined the Specialist Academy in 2015 and completed a Level 1 stage of Bench Joinery and qualified in the use of shop floor machinery and hand tools.

Gavin pictured in the Academy during the official opening event in 2016.

What would you say to someone considering the Apprenticeship Route?

An Apprenticeship is a great way of gaining experience and practical skills whilst earning a wage. In the long term there are many different opportunities and career pathways to pursue.

Can you remember your first day at Specialist?

I was part of the first group to join the Academy. On our first day we were welcomed to the team by Derek Smith, Production Manager. He introduced me to the other Apprentices and took our group on a tour of Specialist HQ.  We then joined Dave in the Academy and found our bearings. What I remember most from that walk around is the size of the factory but what also stood out is that everyone was very friendly and spoke to each other on first name terms.

A day in the life of an SJG Apprentice, what does that look like?

Most days are spent in the Academy on the bench, certainly in the first few weeks. You cover things like timber selection, timber species, types of hand tools, machinery and basic assembly techniques.  It is quite like a technology class at first and then gradually progresses. I really enjoyed David Owen’s tutorials and one to one teaching. His knowledge and passion for the craft is incredible. His enthusiasm really motivated our group. As time progressed we became more involved in assisting shop floor teams. This was very enjoyable as it was more challenging. You were constantly thinking, evaluating and trying to glean as much information as possible from the team about what they are doing and most importantly – WHY!

Coming from an ICT background I couldn’t wait to start working in the Academy’s AutoCAD Suite and I really enjoyed this side of the course.

What was your favourite element of the Academy Programme?

It’s got to be the end of year project.  We were challenged to create our own unique piece of joinery work. This involved developing an initial concept, producing drawings, selecting materials and manufacturing the goods. First you have to decide on a concept which can be difficult! I designed a summer seat made from exterior grade hardwood iroko.  It was quite complex and consisted of two interlinked chairs with dividing table for placement of drinks etc. One of the most challenging and time consuming aspects of the completion of the product was the hand finishing and painting process. It certainly taught me a lot quality and the patience and time it takes to get the finish just right.

Okay, this sounds like a complex piece of joinery work. Did it all go smoothly or how did you overcome any difficulties?

At all times, David Owen our Master Craftman was on hand to answer any questions that I had. Dave always goes the extra mile to help you understand the problem and provides a very detailed explanation of how to solve the problem. Sometimes there can be many different solutions. He really goes into great detail to explain and shares his own experience by giving examples. He has a wealth of knowledge and wants to share it with you.

So Gavin, now that you have left the Academy and are working in the Estimating Department, is the training that you have received still relevant?

Yes it is. Although I now work in the Estimating Department, my time in the academy and on the shop floor in the veneering department has developed my technical knowledge of our products, which is an essential part of the role of Joinery Estimator.  I have a good grasp of how products are engineered, the materials used, the assembly process and time scales involved.  Since joining the Estimating Department I have received further training and mentoring in the team. Everyday I am developing my skills, working on different projects and dealing with the client base.

How did this this opportunity arise for you?

From our group we have all progressed into different areas of the business. This was guided by our strengths and the aspects of the job that we excelled in and enjoyed most in that first year.  I think it is crucial for potential Apprentices to know that these opportunities exist at Specialist and that there is a continuous development pathway available for those that want to keep progressing for many years.

What does the future hold for Gavin Tallon?

Everyday I have the opportunity to work on different projects across a diverse range of sectors in the Construction and Fit Out Industry. I look forward to progressing in my current role and  serving our clients on their projects.

Gavin, we’ve heard that you are now a dab hand at DIY ?

Well yes, I really enjoyed using my joinery skills again recently when my family moved house. I was able to apply the skills and knowledge that I had learnt at Specialist at home by making some tidy pieces of furniture. I think that it all relates back to the values and ethos at Specialist. It is all about quality products and it really sticks in your mind so much that when you are working on your own home you also want it to be your best work.

What’s the best thing about being a Specialist?

Being part of an ever growing team. Every day is different with a new challenge or problem to solve. I really enjoy it.

Hobbies & Interests

GAA and going to the gym.