Welsh college Coleg Cambria has supplied Deeside-based upholstery manufacturer Westbridge Furniture with six apprentices, and is encouraging more youngsters aged 16-18 to enrol on its traineeship scheme before moving on to a full apprenticeship.
In collaboration with North Lancs Training Group, the Level 2 Upholstery Apprenticeship programme runs for two years. Participants are given the opportunity to put the finishing touches to chairs, sofas and beds for global customers including Ikea, M&S and John Lewis. Learners spend up to eight weeks at Cambria’s Deeside site as part of the traineeship scheme, where they are taught basic employability skills such as timekeeping, teamwork and health and safety.
The following four weeks are spent on work placement at Westbridge. As an active member of the production team, participants will gain firsthand experience of the sector and company values, after which, if successful, they will be invited to begin the two-year apprenticeship programme.
Nicola Gaughran, operations manager for traineeships at Coleg Cambria, said the project has been a resounding success, and is an attractive proposition for teenagers wanting to pursue a practical career. “To be able to run this programme with such a reputable, growing company is fantastic for the learners, it’s a win-win situation,” says Nicola.
“The vast majority of those who joined the scheme recognised what an incredible opportunity this is, and the apprenticeship scheme pays way above minimum wage. We are delighted to be in partnership with Westbridge Furniture, and to be able to give young people in the region this opportunity.”
Westbridge Furniture operates from three UK production sites, including Deeside and Holywell, and employs over 1300 people in the UK. HR manager Nick Arundell says there is demand for more production workers – particularly in upholstery - and is delighted to have already recruited trainees from the college.
“We have four apprentices who were part of the launch who are now past the halfway stage and doing very well," he says. “They have grown as individuals as well as on the practical side, and within the first six months one of them was even going out to local schools to demonstrate upholstery to pupils and donated to them the furniture they made together.
“As well as the hands-on work, the apprentices have visited our other manufacturing facilities to learn more about other parts of the process, from production design and development to automated processes.
“By the end of the programme they will be highly-skilled upholsterers with knowledge and a practical insight into the workings of our company. As Westbridge Furniture continues to go from strength to strength, that’s exactly the kind of staff we need. With the uncertainty of Brexit and near full employment in the local labour market, we are looking to young local people to be our next generation of highly skilled upholsterers as our business continues to grow, so it’s an ideal time to join us.”