Apprentice Ellis follows career change dreams at 32 with Hill’s Panel Products

YOU are never too old to follow your dreams – and that is certainly the case for Ellis Smith who has become Hill’s Panel Products’ oldest apprentice at 32.

The long-serving employee decided to embark on a career change so is swapping his office-based role as a production planning administrator to join HPP’s mechanical maintenance team.

It’s not the leap it might first appear as he served four years in the Royal Engineers before joining the Oldham-based firm, which serves the national kitchen and bedroom fitting industry, nine years ago.

Ellis Smith

He is now working on his Level 2 Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician apprenticeship with Oldham Training Centre (OTC) before moving onto Level 3 – a plan that maps out the next three years for the dad-of-three from Fitton Hill.

“Doing the apprenticeship is fantastic opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and learning more and more,” said Ellis, who joined HPP as an agency worker before securing a permanent role.

“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.”

Ellis at work

Dan Mounsey, HPP’s Marketing and Business Development Director, 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.”

Ellis’ expertise from his army days has allowed him to hit the ground running in the five-man maintenance team, servicing and checking on machinery throughout the plant.

He explained: “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.”

The day-release apprenticeship sees Ellis undertake installation, testing, servicing, removal, replacement, maintenance and repair of a range of equipment as part of planned preventative and reactive maintenance programmes.

He has 12 months to complete Level 2 and two years for Level 3, which will include a bespoke module – Hand Fitting Techniques – particularly relevant to his role at HPP.

Last year, Ellis raised almost £600 for Tameside and Glossop Mind by completing the 33.3-mile Tour of Tameside running festival, prompted by his past battles with depression.

And he credits his new career for boosting his wellbeing, saying: “The move has done me a world of good. 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!”

Hill’s Panel Products (HPP) was formed in 1991 and is based in Oldham, with a second distribution centre in Sheffield.

It serves the national kitchen and bedroom fitting industry. It currently has more than 2,000 trade customers and supplies more than 6,000 products including its own brands of doors and cabinet components.

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