HPP takes on its oldest apprentice

A 32-year-old employee at Hill’s Panel Products has embarked on a dramatic change of career to become the company’s oldest apprentice.

Ellis Smith, a former production planning administrator at HPP’s Oldham-based office, has now joined the company’s mechanical maintenance team and is currently in the process of completing his Level 2 Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician apprenticeship with Oldham Training Centre. This will lead on to a Level 3 qualification over the next three years. As part of his new day-release apprenticeship programme, Smith now undertakes the installation, testing, servicing, removal, replacement, maintenance and repair of a range of HPP’s equipment.

Smith, who previously served for four years in the army’s Royal Engineers, started his career at HPP nine years ago as an agency worker and later went on to secure a permanent role within the company’s production planning department. However, realising the skills he learned in the army could make him more useful elsewhere in the business, Smith decided to undergo the formal education necessary to perform a new role.

Explaining the reasoning behind his career development, Smith said: “I worked in both board production departments and then moved to production planning. But then Covid came along, and the role changed from planning big contracts to more of a processing role, which wasn’t really my cup of tea. So, when the opportunity came up for the maintenance role about six months ago, I jumped at it.”

He added: “Doing the apprenticeship is fantastic opportunity to be given. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and learning more and more. “The army train you in a trade, but you don’t come away with a formal qualification, which is why doing the apprenticeships is so good. But thanks to what I learned in the army, I’m being trusted to do jobs that someone so new to the team probably wouldn’t be doing.”

Smith concluded: “The move has done me a world of good personally. I’ve been told by several people they’ve noticed a massive change in me. I don’t think working in the office suited me as a person. It suits me much better getting around the site and being active, I’m walking miles every day!”

Smith’s career change has also been welcomed by HPP’s senior management team, with the company’s marketing and business development director, Dan Mounsey, who said: “Apprenticeships are generally thought of as something for people straight out of college. But the world of work is changing and the traditional route into things is changing with it. For someone like Ellis, with his army background and doing a skilled apprenticeship, this type of development is good for him and good for the business too.”

Earlier this year, HPP announced that its apprenticeships scheme had also helped one of its apprentices overcome mental health struggles, and the company also recently invested money into opening a new production facility in the UK to overcome importation challenges.

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