When Warren Lowe was a Dudley College apprentice at the start of the 1990s he could not have imagined he would one day be running his own business exporting Midlands-made oak buildings to Europe and beyond.
But he believes his apprenticeship gave him the foundations on which to build the business he co-founded 13 years ago.
Prime Oak Buildings has itself trained and employed a string of apprentices; including current Dudley College apprentice Luke Jenkinson and Matt Siers, aged 19, who completed his joinery apprenticeship last summer.
Matt said: “I learned a lot, and it was nice to be earning at the same time. It’s a good place with good people and I one hundred per cent recommend apprenticeships to other people.”
Warren Lowe’s journey from young apprentice to boss of thriving, exporting, British manufacturing success story should be an inspiration to any current apprentice.
And fellow employers should be enthused by his ongoing commitment to the creation of a skilled workforce via the apprenticeship route.
The roots for Warren’s success were laid down 23 years ago when he started his carpentry and joinery apprenticeship at what was the Tipton Annexe of Dudley College.
Warren has praise for his lecturer at the time, Ivor: “He gave me the push I needed. He acknowledged that I was not the most academic but encouraged me to use the skills I did have and I am truly thankful for the time he gave me.”
Now aged 39, Warren worked for several contractors after qualifying and set up Prime Oak with business partner Andrew Whitlock after they spotted a gap in the market.
Prime Oak now has a fabulous portfolio of completed projects to show potential customers, but it was harder at the outset, said Warren: “It was tough convincing people to let two young men build such ambitious structures.”
But they soon built up momentum and within a year had taken on their first apprentice, Darren Harris, who studied at Dudley College and is one of seven past apprentices still working at Prime Oak or for the business as contractors.
“I do value apprenticeships very highly,” said Warren, “It’s the way I started out and is now key to our business. We bring the young people through the ranks with the right skills and no bad habits, working well with the colleges.
“The apprentices start out making doors and windows, learning traditional skills, and then move onto more complex timber frames and then go out to sites.”
The company is already exporting to Europe and the Caribbean, and plans to continue taking on apprentices in the future as the business expands.