SMG has no limits on development for apprentices

Posted on: Mar 11, 2020

Stewart Milne Group is celebrating Apprenticeship Week by reporting that apprentices now account for almost 5% of its workforce.

The independent home builder and timber systems manufacturer now boasts 39 apprentices across the business’ UK locations.

These apprentices work in a variety of trades such as joinery, plumbing and quantity surveying, undergoing a four-year programme to gain the skills and experience needed to develop an exciting career in a sector which continues to face skills shortages.

There are three apprenticeship routes within Stewart Milne: trades apprenticeships, fast-track modern apprenticeships and the graduate apprenticeship programme. In addition, when possible the Group is pleased to also offer office-based apprenticeships.

Karen Catto, HR director at Stewart Milne Group, said: “Our business is truly built on apprentices from senior managers to directors, many of our staff have come through the apprenticeship route. We’re pleased and proud of our commitment to apprenticeships as a way of attracting people into the sector and offering them the opportunity to build attractive careers in construction.”

Fast Track
Fast Track Cohort

A perfect example of this is Martin Cullen, an assistant site manager at Stewart Milne Homes Central. The former lifeguard who studied sports coaching at college, first developed a taste for the construction industry when he was head hunted by a kitchen company whilst working at the pool. Impressed with how Mr Cullen dealt with poolside complaints, he landed a role as a complaints contract administrator before moving to Stewart Milne Homes Central to join the customer care team.

He explained: “Working with the customer care team for six months provided me with a great opportunity to understand the sector and how the business works, which inspired me to consider a position on the front-line where I could not only make a positive difference but also look at things from a different angle.

“Having discussed my ambitions and appetite to progress as an assistant site manager with the construction director, he provided me with the opportunity for this, and I was approached to be part of the Fast Track Modern Apprenticeship."

The award-winning modern apprenticeship programme is aimed at aspiring assistant site managers - offering apprentices the opportunity to train as construction site supervisors during a 9-month programme, and then 13 months on-the-job completion of their SVQ.

The implementation of the MA pathway comes at a crucial time for the industry, which according to Skills Development Scotland, is currently experiencing a shortfall in managerial and specialist skills in construction, with as many as 31,000 employees due to retire from the Scottish construction industry in the next decade. 

Mr Cullen continued: “Without a doubt, the fast track apprenticeship has been challenging, but at the same time, one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. I came into this with my eyes wide open to how hard it would be – especially having had no construction background. However, nine months later, I was a qualified assistant site manager with ambitions to continue to develop my career at Stewart Milne.”

As well as upskilling those without previous experience, and traditional apprentices who come into the industry after school, Stewart Milne Group also offers modern apprenticeships for individuals looking to develop their careers.

Assistant site manager, Colin Stevenson is currently taking part in the fast-track modern apprenticeship programme. Having previously worked for himself, Colin (38) made the decision to join the programme in order to progress to a managerial role.

He explained: “After starting my career as an apprentice joiner, I went on to run my own house building business for a number of years, up until the economy in Aberdeen took a turn for the worse. I took the opportunity then to apply for a job with Stewart Milne and was fortunate enough to be offered a trainee site manager job, with the opportunity for promotion via the fast track modern apprenticeship programme.”

Mr Stevenson continued: “Having run my own business and worked as a joiner for most of my life, I knew I had the relevant practical skills as well as a good mindset for management, but was really interested in learning more around the practices and procedures required to keep a construction business operating efficiently.

The framework allows an individual to gain the modern apprenticeship using an SVQ in construction site supervision, coupled with an industry recognised supervisory qualification – the ILM Diploma in Management and Leadership Practice for the Construction and Built Environment sector. 

The award-winning group is committed to attracting the right people into the industry and providing the best training, mentoring and learning experience to nurture and support their development, whatever their age, gender and background. Each apprentice is assigned a journeyman - an experienced tradesperson who acts as their mentor and supports them in developing their skills and confidence.

In the last five years, Stewart Milne Group has invested considerable time and money into their apprenticeship programmes.


This has included:


  • More than forty apprentices that have joined the business
  • 26 as trade apprentices
  • Nine as fast track apprentices
  • One trainee assistant site manager graduate apprentice
  • Three office-based apprentices


Stewart Milne, a former apprentice himself, said: “At Stewart Milne Group, we are very proud of our culture that encourages and supports personal development so we can nurture our employee’s talent without limits. Whether entering the industry for the first time, or building on years of knowledge and skills, there are opportunities and tools available to help our employees build a successful and rewarding career.”

Anyone interested in becoming an apprentices at Stewart Milne Group should email with a copy of their CV.