Apprentice Ellie keeps her promise to ‘prove a point’ - with a distinction!

Date published: 07 May 2024

Teenager Ellie Shepherd promised to prove a point when she became the first-ever female apprentice in a shopfloor role at Hill’s Panel Products (HPP) - and she’s done it!

For Ellie has earned a distinction after finishing her Level 2 Furniture Manufacturer Apprenticeship, capping a remarkable nine months since she first joined the Oldham-based firm vowing to show that girls can flourish in a manufacturing industry.

She decided to pursue a manual apprenticeship after seeing her older brother Sam working as a cabinet maker.

And she was even more determined to do well when her decision met with scepticism, such as being told she should look for a job in a chemist’s shop.

Ellie’s tutor, John Barker, from North Lancs Training Group, said: “Ellie's performance stood out as exemplary, showcasing a deep understanding and mastery of setting up and using machinery, panel cutting, furniture assembly, and quality control.

"Her meticulous attention to detail ensured precise equipment set-up and adherence to safety protocols, resulting in consistently accurate cuts meeting specifications.

“Her commitment to quality assurance was exceptional, evidenced by thorough inspections guaranteeing the accuracy and consistency of each component.

"Ellie's efficiency in batch-cutting and waste management demonstrated proactive resource utilisation, contributing to cost-effectiveness.

“Additionally, Ellie's versatility in setting up specialised equipment for different drawer types highlighted her adaptability and technical proficiency in furniture assembly.

"Her strict adherence to procedural requirements, including labelling and packaging, reflected her dedication to operational excellence.”

Now Ellie’s reward is a full time role at HPP, which makes and supplies board, doors, components and accessories for the fitted furniture industry, particularly kitchens and bedrooms.

Speaking after receiving her framed apprenticeship certificate, Ellie said: “I love my job and I’m buzzing to think that what I’m doing now could encourage other young women to do what I’ve done.

"I’d love to see more young women, and women in general, being able to follow their dreams and having the confidence to do so.”

Dan Mounsey, HPP’s Marketing and Business Development Director, said: “We’re all delighted for Ellie.

"She’s been true to her word and has made a big impression since she joined us, really earning the respect of her colleagues with the great job she’s doing.

"Getting a distinction is fantastic and a well-deserved achievement for her.”

A former pupil at the Co-op Academy in Failsworth, Ellie left school with six GCSEs and started her apprenticeship at another Oldham manufacturing firm before joining HPP.

It was then the news headlines about her determination caught the attention of a nationwide organisation called Amazing Apprenticeships, which tackles misconceptions about apprenticeships and promotes the benefits of technical education.

That led to her being chosen to fly the flag for women at work for International Women’s Day and National Careers Week earlier this year.

She was one of 25 young women from all over the UK chosen for an ‘Apprenticeship A-Z of Women at Work’, where she featured as ‘F for furniture maker’ among an alphabet of flashcards and case studies sent to schools and colleges to help inspire the next generation of apprentices.

Ellie added: “I was told I should think about working in a pharmacy, or some kind of work like that.

"But when I saw what my brother was doing, I said that’s what I wanted to do, and even though people said I wouldn’t be able to, I said I was going to prove everybody wrong.

"Now I have!”

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