Barker & Stonehouse

Barker and Stonehouse, one of the North East’s most successful independent retailers, has partnered with Intec Business Colleges to set up an apprenticeship programme from its Middlesbrough head office.

The year-long apprenticeships are in office administration, sales and warehousing, with one apprentice learning the rare and specialist skill of French polishing.

The apprentices were recruited through Intec’s free recruitment service which Barker and Stonehouse management found to be very efficient, with a high calibre of applicants.

Following completion of an NVQ level two at Intec Business College and a stint in a labouring position, 18-year-old Alex McKay is now working in the Middlesbrough warehouse. 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.”

Samantha Oram, 16, started her apprenticeship on the 24th February 2014 and is working in the head office dealing with customer orders, arranging deliveries and learning the workings of a busy office. Samantha said: “In my first few months I’ve learnt a lot and I’m really enjoying working in an office environment.”

Another nine apprentices have now joined the company, taking up apprenticeships in warehousing at the Blaydon, Middlesbrough and Eggborough warehouses and in sales and administration in Middlesbrough. One of the apprentices has now been given a permanent contract and there are two more vacancies at Metro Centre and Eggborough, proving it has become a successful programme in the first year.

James Barker, Barker and Stonehouse managing director, said: “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.