Construction runs in the McShane family blood so when it came to choosing a career path, pursuing a trade was the natural choice for Gerard McShane. The 24-year-old works as an apprentice joiner with specialist construction business Pure Fitout. With offices in Dublin, Belfast and London, the company offers fits out for hotels, restaurants, bars, homes and offices, while also providing external cladding for big commercial developments.
“It is very enjoyable and at the same time challenging,” Gerard says of apprentice life. “There is so much to learn, but I try to take each day as it comes. “Pure Fitout is a great place in which to do my apprenticeship as there are so many experienced joiners to learn from.”
Investing in apprentices and training is part of the Pure Fitout ethos. It’s also a respectful nod to Belfast’s skills heritage, particularly the technical arts and skills in fine joinery as a result of the city’s shipyard traditions. Pure Fitout owner Ronan Higham himself developed skills from his father who he would work with on jobs around town. The firm has committed to taking on 20 metal work and joinery apprentices over the next five years as part of a £1.2million investment.
The company says it is also embracing the changing face of apprenticeships, and says it is now seeing older people taking this route into the industry. No longer the sole pursuit of school leavers, there is diversity too in the kinds of training on offer with roles opening up in quantity surveying and site management.
For Gerard McShane choosing construction was in some ways a fait accompli. It’s a choice that’s paying dividends. “My dad was a joiner so when I was growing up I always thought that I would like to go into the industry,” he says. “I enjoyed technology in school and rather than go to university I decided that I would get a trade.
“Joinery always appealed to me and I decided to begin an apprenticeship in bench joinery.” “No day is the same as the next,” he adds. “I start work at 7am, which is an early start, but I am well used to it now. “There’s a lot of variety in my work which is great as it means that I am doing something new every day. I really like that.”
A project highlight has been House Belfast. “It has lots of specialist joinery and really nice features,” he says of the bar and restaurant. “It was good to be able to go there with my mates to see it. “It’s not always possible to see the projects that you are working on. I had a real sense of pride seeing my handy work.”
As for future aspirations, Gerard has designs on a fulfilling career in the industry. “I hope to be happy and successful,” he says. “It is really important for me to enjoy what I am doing each day.