Young apprentices at a Derbyshire furniture manufacturer have been showing off their upholstery skills in front of a royal audience.
HRH The Earl of Wessex visited DFS’ Lincoln House Factory in Somercotes, near Alfreton, during a UK-wide tour to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award scheme.
DFS has been a supporter of the scheme for the past 20 years, and in 2014 launched its award-winning Upholstery and Service Manager Apprenticeship schemes, which sees apprentices working towards their DofE Award.
Ten of the apprentices were on hand to greet the royal visitor during his visit on Thursday morning, alongside company CEO Ian Filby.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we’re teaching the next generation the skills of upholstery,” said Mr Filby.
“These young people will be the craftsmen and women of the future and, along with the technical skills they learn on the course, the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award is helping them develop self-confidence, self-reliance and leadership skills.
“To have HRH The Earl of Wessex visit our factories and recognise the achievements of our apprentices as part of their Diamond Anniversary celebrations is a real honour.”
As part of the 60th birthday celebrations, the charity has launched the DofE Diamond Challenge. This one-off initiative allows people of all ages to take on a DofE inspired challenge and earn a limited-edition DofE Diamond Challenge pin.
Despite the DFS apprentices being only seven months into their apprenticeship, they took on the challenge of making six bespoke chairs, to be auctioned off for charity.
Prince Edward, himself a Gold Award holder, saw first-hand the apprentices completing the making of the armchairs, and afterwards the charity’s trustee commented: “I was very impressed with the skills of the apprentices after only six months learning upholstery. They made it look very easy, but I could see the hard work that they’ve put into the Diamond Challenge.
“It was heartening to hear that these young people will be the craftsmen and women of the future especially as without these apprenticeships the skill of upholstery could be lost to younger generations.”
For young people aged 14-24, undertaking a DofE Award offers a unique opportunity to grow as young adults, gaining invaluable life experience while developing essential employability skills. Setting their own challenges and learning practical skills helps to prepare each individual for the world of work.
DFS apprentice Zoe Barnes said: “The challenge has really tested us but it’s made us more confident. We’re still learning the skills of upholstery so it’s pushed us technically but it’s a big boost to think that we’ve actually made six chairs from scratch.
“It was great to have HRH come and help us finish the chairs off too.”
Peter Westgarth, Regional Director and CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh Award, added: “As we celebrate 60 years, it’s clear that the charity is an integral part of the apprenticeship schemes run by DFS and has played an invaluable role in the development of young people in the community.”