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Apprentice gets chance to progress

Grace Evans is the latest apprentice to make a big impression at Telford-based subcontract manufacturer CEL Group.

The 16-year-old is a third of the way through her Business Administration apprenticeship with the expanding global firm, which has additional facilities and partners in China.

Grace is following hot on the heels of former apprentice Lewis Gilbert, who now works full-time leading assembly activities with the business after completing a one-year warehouse operative apprenticeship programme.

The firm is also now recruiting a further warehouse and assembly apprentice as it recognises the mutual benefits of investing in, and nurturing local talent, through the apprenticeship programme.

Grace, who started her business apprenticeship in October, works across all departments at CEL Group and feels she made the right choice opting for an apprenticeship over continuing in full time education.

Grace said: “I learn better when I’m working hands-on, doing tasks and activities that support what I’m learning instead of just being in a classroom environment. I work right across the business and complete a whole range of various activities every day, from invoicing for accounts, to creating social media posts to market the business.

“One of my favourite tasks is working with sales on manufacturing enquiries, quotations and sample approvals. I also get to work with our teams in China too. It is fascinating to see how everyone works so closely, despite being on separate continents.”

Medical aids and adaptations are just some of the products which are assembled by CEL Group in the UK after the firm opened an impressive new purpose-built HQ at Hortonwood West in September 2022. 

CEL Group has rapidly reaped the benefits of moving to this new site developed through the Telford Land Deal - a partnership between Telford & Wrekin Council, Homes England and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.

During the first stage of her apprenticeship, Grace has also learnt more about subcontract engineering and how the firm is key to delivering components for a wide range of industries and service areas.

She said: "My apprenticeship has given me the chance to learn about how the world outside the UK operates. It’s fascinating to think about the number of products we use in our everyday lives that depend on a subcontract manufacturing business like CEL Group.

“We make all sorts of things for big brand names – from lighting to hospital beds, as well as parts for bikes, pubs, greenhouses and so much more.

“CEL Group is a growing company and have made it clear to me that I can also grow with the business. The people who work at CEL Group are kind and caring and I feel really lucky to have been offered an apprenticeship here.

“As an apprentice you need lots of support and patience to make the transition into working in a real-life adult environment. CEL Group offers that support. I am not only gaining a qualification at the end of my apprenticeship, but also a job that I am familiar with, a job I enjoy and one with a great career path. It’s a win-win situation.”

CEL Group virtually doubled its floor space to 40,000 sq.ft when it moved to the new Hortonwood West site only 18 months ago.

Since then it has been accelerating the expansion of it flexible subcontract manufacturing and supply services, growing its capacity to stock hold products which are manufactured at its facilities and partners in China as well as increasing its assembly capability here in the UK.

CEL Group offers low-cost quality manufacturing and full logistics management to many different industry sectors with over 60% of its products supporting the healthcare sector, including the NHS. Products range from individual components to complex fabrications and from assemblies to full box builds, delivered directly to its customers’ distribution networks.

Julie Tickell-Cartwright, CEL Group marketing director and Grace’s mentor, said: “Grace has gone from strength-to-strength at CEL Group. She’s hardworking, thoughtful and prepared to ‘have a go’ whatever the challenge. We’re a growing business, which means continuous change.

“However, Grace takes it all in her stride. She has grown in confidence and capability offering a refreshing perspective on how we work. Grace’s story is testament to how well apprenticeships can work for the successful development of local talent and businesses.”

Grace’s story is also another example of how The Telford Land Deal programme, formed in 2015, delivers skills and jobs across the region, in addition to new homes. The Deal brings forward former new town sites set aside for development, de-risks them and provides shovel ready land which can be developed for employment and residential use. 

So far, it has delivered around 2000 jobs, just over 1.5 million sq ft of commercial floor space and just under 1300 homes.

Councillor Eileen Callear, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for Education, Employment and Visitor Economy, said: “It’s fantastic to see that apprentices are at the forefront of CEL Group’s success and future growth plans.

“Apprenticeships give people a fantastic opportunity to gain hands-on skills in a live work environment, earn money and gain a qualification at the same time. Grace is gaining the skills and qualifications she needs for a really exciting career.”