Steven Huzzey - Benchmark Furniture

In 1990, Steven Huzzey joined Benchmark as an Apprentice through WBTC as a Trainee Cabinet Maker, attending The London School of Furniture on day-release where he qualified with a City and Guilds in Furniture Making. 24 years later and he is now a Director at Benchmark and, knowing how Apprenticeships helped him build a successful career, he employs Apprentices through WBTC and is passionate about investing in young people and helping their careers grow. We caught up with Steven to find out how he got started and how Apprenticeships helped him back then and how today, Apprenticeships are helping him grow Benchmark Furniture.

What is your current position?
I am a Director of the company

Describe your job?
Day to day can be very mixed, my main role is to make sure we have enough work to keep 70 people busy, my time is spent in the office and  workshop or out and about where ever the job takes us.

Were you working there before you began your Apprenticeship?
No, I did a works week experience through school, I really liked it. I was offered a job pretty much there and then, so I finished my last exams at school and started work the next day.

What got you started on the road to an Apprenticeship?
My parents along with the School careers office is where it all started, like most teenagers I had no idea what I was going to do.

Before you began your Apprenticeship, did you know what profession you wanted?
In short no, my parents ran a very successful garage, while we were kids my brother and I always used to help there doing all sorts, at the time I did not enjoy it so I knew I didn’t want to be a mechanic, however being in a work place environment at a young age certainly helped me out for the future. I was not that academic at school and did not want to go onto full time education so an apprenticeship seemed a good way to go.

















What Apprenticeship programme did you join and what is the qualification that it gave you?
I really cannot remember if the Apprenticeship programme had an actual name at that time, I Joined Benchmark Furniture as their 7th employee as a trainee Cabinet maker, I went to The London School of Furniture on day-release for two years then to Bucks College in High Wycombe for the final third year Advanced course, I gained a City and Guilds qualification in Furniture Making.

How has an Apprenticeship helped you?
As a young teenager you do not really know what life is about, being at work around other people really opens your eyes to life and work, I loved it, being able to go to college once a week to learn, then being at work getting stuck into whatever you had to do. Learning and earning at the same time was ideal for me.

As an employer, how do Apprenticeships help your business?
The funding of course helps a little, however what is far more important is the sustainability of our industry, there is going to be a lack of skilled labour in our industry so the only way to keep our business alive is to invest in apprentices.

What do you look for in an Apprentice.
Basic skills are good but what is far more important is the willingness to work hard and be eager to learn.

How many Apprentices do you currently employ or how may Apprentices have you helped over the years?
We try and take on 2 apprentices every year, I think this year we have taken on three. Currently we have six apprentices, three in their first years, two second years and one in his thrid year. You cannot expect all apprentices to work out, It just doesn’t suit some.

How did WBTC help you through your Apprenticeship?
As I briefly mentioned earlier when you are a young teenager you do not know much even though you think you do, you don’t always listen to your parents so having WBTC there whenever I needed advice or a bit of motivation they were there to help guide me in the right direction.

Would you recommend Apprenticeships to other businesses and why?
All I say to this is I cannot understand why you would not give it a try, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain, some of our best employees were once apprentices.

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