Barker and Stonehouse, one of the North East’s most successful firms has taken on three new apprentices this month and to mark National Apprentice Week (March 3-7) is now seeking another four to join in the near future.

Based at the Middlesbrough head office, the year-long apprenticeships are in IT support, office administration and warehousing, with one apprentice learning the rare and specialist skill of French polishing.

Following completion of an NVQ level two at an Intec Business College and a stint in a labouring position, 18-year-old Alex McKay is now working in the Middlesbrough warehouse having joined Barker and Stonehouse three weeks ago. He is learning under the expert tutelage of Anthony Moody and Steve Davey, specialists in furniture repair and French polishing, who have been with the firm for 12 and 36 years respectively.

Steve Davey says; “To be a skilled French polisher it’s important to have a great eye for colour, patience and a love of working with wood. Alex is already showing great promise in his first few weeks on the job.”

Left to right: Alex McKay, Steve Davey and Anthony Moody

Samantha Oram, 16, is working in the head office dealing with customer orders, arranging deliveries and learning the workings of a busy office, and says she is learning plenty on the job; “In my first few weeks I’ve learnt a lot and I’m really enjoying working in an office environment.”

Another young apprentice who has joined the firm recently is 18-year-old Ellis Little, who has an NVQ in IT business support from Middlesbrough College and is working in the IT department. He has already impressed bosses with his tenacious nature.

David Wilkinson, Business Development Director at Barker and Stonehouse says; “The apprenticeship scheme has been well received in the company and we’re looking for another four apprentices to join the Eggborough and Blaydon warehouses, as well as the customer services and sales teams at the Middlesbrough head office.”

James Barker, the firm’s managing director says; “Many of our core staff have been with us for a long time, building up a great bank of knowledge and expertise. The apprenticeship scheme enables our staff to pass this knowledge on to the next generation of workers, something of great value to us, while giving young people the skills and opportunities they need when starting out in their career.”

As the UK’s largest family-owned furniture retailer, Barker and Stonehouse is one of Teesside’s flagship home-grown businesses. The firm was founded in Stockton in 1946 and has grown significantly since then, employing over 320 staff across the country and 115 in Teesside.