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Rycotewood Furniture Centre Unveils New Apprenticeship Program for the Installations Business

Founded in 1938 by the late artist and philanthropist Cecil Michaelis, Rycotewood Furniture Centre has a long-standing tradition of providing craft training to young people in Oxfordshire. Michaelis, a passionate supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement, was driven by a concern that valuable skills were at risk of disappearing. Today, Rycotewood upholds his legacy by offering students opportunities to develop a broad spectrum of skills that honour the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, while adapting to the evolving furniture industry.

Interview with Josh Hudson, Rycotewood
Andy Bishop from InstallerSHOW recently caught up with Josh Hudson, Furniture Lead at Rycotewood to discuss the centre’s ongoing education initiatives in furniture and cabinet making, as well as an exciting new development for the installations business.

AB: Hello Josh, thanks for joining me for a chat today. Could you tell me a bit about yourself and how you became Furniture Lead at Rycotewood?
JH: I was actually a student here after leaving school. I loved CDT (Craft Design Tech) and immediately knew woodworking was my passion. I studied at Rycotewood for two years, learning from amazing lecturers like Andrew Shelton and Peter Kuh.

After graduation, I explored various roles using my newfound skills, including shop fitting and exhibition building, working all over the world. Eventually, I joined Stuart Barr at Barr, where I worked for 15 years creating bespoke residential kitchens and house interiors, collaborating with renowned designers and clients like India Hicks.

My time with Stuart was really rewarding, it was incredibly high-end work with generous budgets, and we worked with some incredible designers and clients.  We also got involved with building some amazing design projects at exhibitions with designers like Shalini Misra, Shaun Clarkson and Matsui Design Tech.

AB: And what led you back to your old college?
JH: In 2018, the opportunity to lead the furniture department at Rycotewood came up, and I jumped at it. It’s a dream job for me, and I’m proud to influence the next generation of woodworkers and furniture makers. We take in young people straight from school and with government funding, give them the skills, experience and qualifications to go on to have amazing careers. They learn about working with wood and panel products and integrating cabinet making, high end kitchen design and build, all of which are transferrable skills. Past students of Rycotewood have included Sebastian Cox, Simon Pengelle, Charlie Whinney and Matthew Burt who have gone on to do incredible things.

AB: How many students are currently at Rycotewood?
JH: We have around 150 students, ranging from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to a three-year BA Honours course. We also run an apprenticeship scheme, which has grown from seven to fifty apprentices over the past six years, thanks to amazing support from companies like Benchmark, Halstock, and Bill Clyendert & Company.

AB: What’s next for Rycotewood?
JH: Exciting News! We’re launching a new Fitted Interiors Installer Apprenticeship Scheme in early 2025 to address the demand for new installers and will focus on high end residential installations. As has been well publicised, the UK has an ageing workforce in this area, so our new scheme will provide specialized training in installation, supported by industry partners.

The program will offer a Level 2 qualification over 18 months, with block release for intensive week-long learning sessions. The curriculum will cover everything from site surveys to assembly, tool operation, installations, health and safety, handovers, and rectification work. We already have backing from companies like Faber Bespoke, JS Bespoke, and The Joinery Fitting Company, but we’re seeking more industry support and equipment partnerships. Interested companies can contact us at rycotewood@activatelearning.ac.uk.

AB: You’re speaking at InstallerSHOW next month. What will you be discussing?
JH: I’ll be joining BiKBBI’s Damian Walters and The Apprenticeship Partner’s Hannah Hockley to discuss recruitment, apprenticeships, and the skills gap. It’s crucial for the industry to understand the current situation and how they can contribute to improving things.

AB: Thanks Josh, we look forward to seeing you at InstallerSHOW next month

Recruitment, Apprenticeships, and the Skills Gap
June 25th, 4.15 – 4.45 PM at the Kitchens of the Future stage InstallerSHOW: June 25 – 27, NEC Birmingham – get your free ticket here.

For more information or to get involved, contact Rycotewood at rycotewood@activatelearning.ac.uk.

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