The processor’s apprentice

Heidi Boyce
Heidi Boyce

Cornwall Group is said to be effectively managing the skills crisis by actively engaging with an apprenticeship programme.

Heidi Boyce is a 20-year-old apprentice working at the Highbridge factory of Cornwall Glass Manufacturing, while completing a Level 2 NVQ in Glass Processing.

Heidi is one of 10 apprentices who started working for the Cornwall Group in the last year, taking the total up to 20 employed by the whole of the group, which also includes Cornwall Glass & Glazing and Mackenzie Glass.

“Heidi has worked extremely hard over the course of this year, and she is a really good example of how successful the apprenticeship programme can be,” said general manager, Dan Payton.

“She is ahead of schedule – a L2 qualification should take up to 12 months, and she should be done in nine. What’s more, the NVQ Assessor had nothing but good things to say about her progress, which is down to her commitment to completing her coursework at home, even after a hard work here on the shop floor!”

So confident is Cornwall Glass Manufacturing in Heidi’s abilities as a glass processing professional, that Dan has given her the responsibility for specialist orders on the sealed unit line.

“About 60%-70% of sealed unit orders here at Highbridge are fully automated, which means there is little human contact between the toughener and stacking for dispatch at the end of the line,” Dan said. “But some specialist jobs require manual hand application, such as those needing Georgian bar and decorative lead.

“These also tend to be higher value, so we monitor the success rate very closely!”

Heidi was partnered with Dave ‘Doc’ Morris, who has worked on the line for seven years – and has a further 10 years’ experience under his belt. According to Dan, despite the fact that Dave has got extremely high standards, the relationship between him and Heidi is very productive.

“Our overall product rejection rate is extremely low, but it is even lower on the specialist unit line,” Dan said. “Which means there is a lot for Heidi to live up to. But she has taken to it like a duck to water, and Dave has been a great tutor.”

Cornwall Group is prepared to take a chance on apprentices because the glass company has a track record of developing those young people who have gone on to be a genuine asset to the business.

“In Heidi’s cohort for 2023, we have installers, glass operatives, trade counter apprentices, engineers and sales office apprentices,” said Cornwall Group’s HR and marketing manager, Emma Harris. “And we are nominating some truly outstanding apprentices for the upcoming Cornwall apprenticeship awards from all departments, including engineering, sales, glass processing, IT, finance, administration and marketing.

“We are keen to celebrate their achievements because they contribute so much to the group. In fact, 20% of all our colleagues joined the company via the apprenticeship programme, 95% of which have been with us for 5+ years.

“And they’ve gone on to build careers at all levels,” Emma continued. “Our apprentices have gone on to become supervisors, technical representative, senior IT technicians, project leaders, assistant managers, and even a managing director.”

Meanwhile, Heidi says she is keeping her options open.

“I’m so fortunate to be able to learn while working,” she said. “It is so different to being a student in a classroom. Cornwall Glass Manufacturing have given me loads of responsibility, and it is nice to feel valued and part of the team.”