Tuesday 14 July 2020

DAF fosters future workshop talent

Steve Banner reports from the DAF Apprentice College

DAF’s apprenticeship scheme has just demonstrated how effective it can be when it comes to producing high-quality young employees.

Held at the NEC Birmingham, the WorldSkills UK National Final recently saw apprentice Mathew Hands from DAF dealership Brian Currie in Bedford win the gold medal in the Heavy Vehicle Technology category. Apprentice Claire Weller of DAF dealership Adams Morey in Portsmouth won the silver medal.

A British government-funded initiative, WorldSkills UK promotes apprenticeships and technical education with the aim of inspiring young people to consider a wide range of skilled vocational pathways.

Jonathan Dudley, an apprentice at Hereford DAF dealership MOTUS, performed well too. DAF’s UK managing director, Laurence Drake, is understandably proud of all three of them.

“We’re investing in young people, imparting skills into the next generation of employees, and future-proofing the business,” he states.

“The WorldSkills UK event has really put DAF front-of-mind for the thousands of students who visited our stand.”

The need for truck manufacturers and their dealers to grow their own workshop talent is an acute one, given that skilled technicians appear to be as hard to recruit as experienced truck drivers. DAF is hoping to secure a steady stream of the former with its apprenticeship programme.

At its heart is the DAF Apprentice College. Based in Stoke Gifford, just outside Bristol, it is operated in conjunction with City of Bristol College.

Last autumn saw 130 first-year apprentices join the scheme.

“That’s the most we’ve ever taken on,” says DAF business services manager, Adam Russell. “We’re now getting close to saturation point, with a total of 340 apprentices following our three-year programme.”

The scheme has been operating for nearly a quarter of a century, and City of Bristol College has been involved with it for over 20 years.

The majority of apprentices who enter the programme are aged between 16 and 17 and must have at least three GCSEs, or equivalent qualifications. They are all employed by DAF dealers.

The training is partly funded through the government’s Advanced Apprenticeship programme. DAF and its dealers cover the balance.

“The apprentices spend 28 weeks a year at Stoke Gifford on block release,” Russell says; usually in two week increments.
For the rest of the year they work at the DAF dealership that has recruited them, and are visited every six to eight weeks by a Skillnet skills coach who monitors their progress. Skillnet is DAF’s training partner and helps recruit the apprentices to begin with.

Once youngsters join the scheme, they tend to stick with it for the duration.

“If anybody does drop out then it tends to be early on,” Russell says.

After three years, apprentices should have learned enough to execute most service and repair jobs safely and competently.  They should also have gained an understanding of diagnostics, and what DAF’s DAVIE diagnostics tool is telling them.

At the end of the programme, a participant should have gained a Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair qualification. It includes VCQ (Vocational Competence Qualification) Level 2 and 3 in Heavy Vehicle Maintenance and Repair, VRQ (Vocationally Recognised Qualification) Level 2 and 3 technical certificates, Functional/Essential Core Skills Level 2 and an IMI Diploma in Heavy Vehicle Maintenance and Repair.

The individual will also have gone on an introductory welding course.

Persuading youngsters to become apprentice truck technicians can be a struggle. However, the last 18 months have seen DAF enjoy more success in terms of going into schools and getting its message across, says Russell.

One angle of attack it is using involves asking current apprentices to talk to pupils about the scheme and the benefits it can bring. DAF has calculated that they are more likely to pay heed to somebody closer to their own age than they are to a manager in his or her forties or fifties.

At the WorldSkills event, apprentice teams from DAF dealer groups Ford & Slater and MOTUS played a key role in demonstrating the huge range of job opportunities that exist in a modern truck dealership to young people who were attending.

Once apprentices obtain their qualifications there is always the danger that they will promptly leave the dealership that employs them and go and work for a business – a non-franchised workshop, for instance – that may offer a better hourly rate.

One way in which DAF is battling against this risk is to stress the ongoing training that will be available to them if they remain within the DAF family. The more qualifications you have, the higher your earnings will be; and there may be the opportunity to move into management.

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