How our talented Joinery student Sé found success with the Apprenticeships NI.

People 1st apprentice Sé and his employer Seamus from Keenwood Joinery

Meet, Sé McCashin, (pronounced Shay) a talented People 1st joinery apprentice from Belfast, who joined our Construction Training Academy a year ago to study for his Level 2 Diploma and now his Level 2 NVQ apprenticeship. A past pupil of De La Salle College in Belfast, Sé knew that he wanted to learn a trade and after having studied Bench Joinery for GCSE, and although it took some persuading his parents agreed to let Sé attend People 1st, to go down the vocational route and train in the trade of joinery. As coming from a background where siblings were working in professions such as teaching, it was a challenge to get his family onboard with his dream to be a joiner, but Sé was determined to push himself and give it a go!

Starting with the Apprenticeships programme!

After joining People 1st, it became clear quite early in our journey with Sé that he had the skills and the focus and determination to go far. He listened, took instruction well and was very keen to progress and our joinery tutor Dean and Construction Training Academy manager Don, knew that he had the drive and ambition to become a great joiner. Incidentally our joinery tutor Dean, was also an apprentice with Keenwood so this almost is coming around full circle with Dean also teaching Sé weekly alongside the work at Keenwood. 

That is a great thing about an apprenticeship as it is a work based programme where the apprentices spends the majority of their time with the employer to learn ‘on-the-job’. As part of Sé’s apprenticeship for example, he comes one day a week to train with People 1st in our hands on Construction Training Academy in Crumlin, and the rest of week Sé spends with his employer Keenwood Joinery, a specialist local joinery contractor, that specialises in high end joinery projects for a range of high profile clients across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Find out more here about our training and Apprenticeships:

Sé working on site at the new School of Management Construction Project in Stranmillis, Belfast

This current project showcases these high end skills perfectly as Sé, alongside the Keenwood team, are currently working on a range of bespoke joinery finishes within the custom built Queens University Management School- part of the Riddell Hall complex in Belfast. QUB Management School is one of the top business schools in the UK and Ireland and prides itself on offering a world-class range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in Accounting, Economics, Finance and Management. The proposed building will extend and enhance the Riddel Hall campus and contribute to the on-going success of the Queen’s Management School located at the site. The expansion of the School will ensure that it is fit to serve the changing educational needs of a rapidly growing postgraduate community, who will prove invaluable to the progress of the Northern Ireland economy.

This project is being undertaken by established and respected local building contractors Felix O’Hare and as part of the internal finishing, there is a lot of beautiful woodwork and panelling, which the Keenwood team are responsible for. Director of Keenwood Joinery Seamus Keenan is delighted to being working on such a prestigious and landmark project in Belfast, which will showcase the talents of their team greatly and aligns with current project standards from the company on display on their website

An artists view of the impressive facade of the newly constructed School of Management, part of Queens University Belfast

As part of this apprenticeship Sé has early starts on site, just off Stranmillis village at 7am sharp to get going for the days work ahead and he is always prompt and on-time which is a great thing for any employer to see “ as it shows he is organised, has a great work ethic and lets us know that he is taking his apprenticeship and the opportunity that it brings seriously” says Seamus. “ We are really delighted with the progress the Sé is making and he has fast become a valued member of the Keenwood team “. What sort of things would Sé been working on during a typical week at Keenwood joinery- he can cut out and fit complex ironmongery, he can set door frames and hang doors, he can cut and fit complex wall panelling, as well as do 1st fix stud work and set out, cut and fit decking along with soft wood and hard wood trims. Sé is more than capable to read and understand construction drawings and complete complex items of work. 

How to get the most out of your joinery apprentice experience:

Sé too understands the benefits that working in a talented team like Keenwood brings his skills too – as with a workforce comprised of highly skilled craftsmen, they are at the top of their game and Sé is able to learn so many key techniques- “ the team are amazing and they always take the time to show me things properly, they make time to show me how to do it the right way from the start and this has really helped my skills come on greatly, they have been very welcoming since i joined Keenwood and I enjoy picking up new things from them every day on site” 

Ray Sloan, a master craftsman and one of the experienced members of Keenwood has been great at showing Sé the technical skills of the trade and this has helped Sé progress so much on site as Seamus, Ray and the team know that everything they put into Sé’s development is returned ten-fold “ having an apprentice is an investment and it does take time to teach them and interact and bring them along but with Sé’s approach to work and his pleasant,  ‘can-do’ attitude, he really is every employers dream apprentice. I would take another 10 apprentices on if they were like Sé”  explains Seamus, which really is a testament to the standard of work and also importantly the positive attitude that Sé brings to site each day.


We were able to visit the site today and see the Keenwood team at work behind the scenes and be able to see the incredible  business school project in the flesh. It really has some beautiful architectural features, which the lovely wood accentuates perfectly, and it is really going to be a stunning project once it is completed. 

What lies next for Sé? Well Seamus is really keen for Sé to progress even further onto a Level Three NVQ qualification next with People 1st and this may even open up more projects for Sé over in London, as Keenwood regularly work  across the water on larger corporate projects, via their London office in the bustling hub of the big city.  Sé was also nominated for an Apprentice of the Year in the 2023 Awards and we will have to wait to next month to see if he is successful at that!! Whether he wins it or not, Seamus is convinced he is one of the best, and at only 18 years of age, as well as being the youngest on site, he is one of the best apprentices to pass through the Keenwood doors “ In my 45 years of construction experience and having tried well in excess of 100 apprentices, I can honestly say that Sé is the most accomplished of them all. He is intelligent, reliable, hardworking, willing to learn, capable beyond his years, good hands and understands the construction process. Sé is now a key member of our team and without a doubt will become a master craftsman.”

This is high praise indeed coming from a successful entrepreneur in the construction sector, such as Seamus, and it is clear that Sé has a really bright future ahead of him-  through the apprenticeships programme, Se’s investment in himself and his learning, the investment by the Keenwood team in teaching Sé and also the tutors and support staff at People 1st, we can echo what Seamus said and it is clear that he will be one of the futures shining stars in this master craftsman trade and we are sure that great success lies ahead!

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