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New employer academy addresses future skills shortages

A leading local timber merchant and importer has joined forces with Derby College Group to highlight career opportunities for Joinery students and address future skills gaps in the industry.

Family-owned Harlow Bros has been established for more than 90 years and specialise in the manufacture and merchanting of timber, engineered timber and manufactured buildings. 

The company has branches in Burton-upon-Trent, Coalville, Derby, Hinckley, Long Whatton, Leicester and Nottingham. 

Level two Bench Joinery students who are based at the Roundhouse Technical and Professional Skills college in Pride Park, Derby, have joined the Harlow Bros Employer Academy which provides them with valuable work experience at the Long Whatton site in Leicestershire to learn more about timber machining. 

Meanwhile Level One students are gaining work experience at the Derby branch to develop their employability skills. 

Harlow Bros Operations Manager Simon Fox said: “We and many other companies in this industry face future labour shortages as we have an ageing workforce with many skilled people retiring in the next five to ten years. 

“We were therefore keen to work in partnership with a college to develop a pipeline of talent for the future. 

“Timber machining is only offered by a handful of training providers and Derby College was the only organisation whose workshop equipment mirrored our own manufacturing capabilities.”

HR Manager Alice Stoney continued: “By working with young people at the start of their skills training, we hope to highlight the job opportunities available to them both with us and other companies in our industry. 

“Our goal is to identify potential candidates amongst the Level Two cohort for apprenticeships and full time jobs and work with the Level One students to develop employability skills such as time keeping, communication, customer service skills and problem solving. 

“We hope that this will highlight the wider job opportunities available to them by progressing onto higher programmes.” 

Derby Depot Manager Matt Charlton added that a typical work experience programme for each student included theory, working on machinery and helping to serve customers.

He said: “The students have been impeccably behaved, very inquisitive and enthusiastic throughout – particularly when working on the machines.”

Student Jack Fox said: “This has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much about timber, the trade and machining.”

DCG Assistant Director of Learner and Employer Partnerships Debbie Keegan concluded: “Harlow Bros is the perfect example of how a company can work with a college to bridge the gap between education and the workplace. 

“Not only are they investing in their potential future workforce but the work experience is motivating students to better focus on their college work and their future career goals.”