They Thought she was crazy at school, but Rachel quit pre-university education to become a furniture maker

From burying her nose in books to sawing, sanding, and building furniture. Rachel de Leeuw (16), from Scherpenisse, switched from pre-university education (VWO) year 4 to vocational education (MBO) level 3 to become a furniture maker. She still fully stands behind her choice. “If you have a dream, you should chase it.”

Rachel did well in the pre-university education at the Calvijn College in Goes and was already orienting herself towards a university study. “I was thinking about biomedical sciences. That sounded nice,” she says. However, she actually found the learning process unappealing and did not enjoy school. Halfway through her fourth year, she had enough. “I came home and told my mother that school was making me unhappy and that I wanted to stop.

She was okay with it, but I had to think about what I wanted to do next. Something with my hands. I thought about becoming a farrier because I like horses. But whether I want to spend the rest of my life with them, I don’t know. Then I thought about becoming a car mechanic, but I don’t know much about cars,” she says with a laugh.

Rachel de Leeuw

“It was fine at home. I come from a family where everyone has a practical profession. And I have a sister who also quit school to start working, so I got a lot of understanding. That’s nice.”

Little enthusiasm at school

Most of her teachers at VWO were less enthusiastic. “They said things like: you have the capacity, you’re so smart. Why are you doing this? One of my teachers even said that by making this choice, I would end up in the gutter. Only my religious studies teacher was very understanding. He also thought I didn’t belong in a stuffy classroom.”

During her school time, she already worked with great pleasure in the evenings and weekends with a carpenter. “I found it fantastic there. Sanding, sawing, those are things I wanted to do. So my mother suggested that I could also become a furniture maker.”

She liked the sound of that, so she enrolled at the Wood and Furniture College in Rotterdam and started looking for a training company nearby. While waiting at a bus stop in Tholen, a work van from Stijlinterieurs drove by. “Since I didn’t know the company, I looked up their website,” she recalls.

Taking the bold step

What they made there, she wanted to learn to make as well. So she took the bold step and called the company, but they already had enough apprentices. However, because she was so young and had made a special choice, owner Johan Klok gave her a chance.

Where she had to sit quietly in her high school classroom, it was the opposite at Stijlinterieurs. The requirement at the company is that apprentices learn to make a kitchen island and kitchen cabinets within a year. Now that she has mastered this, she is increasingly accompanying them to clients themselves. “A requirement for us is that you can do everything from A to Z. Furniture makers must also be able to install the furniture,” explains Klok.

Something Rachel is also enthusiastic about. “If you’re only busy in the workshop, you know what you’re working on because you have a drawing. Slowly it comes to life. But only when you also install it yourself at the customers’ homes, is the picture really complete.”

When she finishes her education, she plans to continue with the training to become a work planner. “Now I get a folder with drawings, the order, and the measurements. But if I can measure myself at clients’ places and make the drawings, then it’s really from A to Z.”

No regrets about her choice

In the future, she still sees herself making furniture at Stijlinterieurs. “I’ve found my groove here. And ideally, when I’m about twenty, I’d like to buy a house on Tholen. I have my work here, so I don’t plan on leaving.”

She absolutely does not regret her choice. “I feel much better now. My friends who are now in VWO 6 are always stressing out. You have to be happy in what you do, and if you don’t want to do it anymore, you should stop. I’m lucky with my parents, because there are parents who force their children to do HAVO or VWO. I think that’s such nonsense. If you have a dream, you should chase it.”

Eindhoven Dagblad, Sandra Moerland