Ford and Slater – one of the UK’s largest independent DAF dealership groups – has won the Apprenticeship of the Year award at the Motor Transport Awards 2018. The win follows an increase in the attraction, retention and attainment of their apprentices over the last 18 months.
Often described as the “Oscars of the transport industry”, the Motor Transport Awards are regarded as the benchmark for excellence in UK road transport. With over 50 apprentices across ten locations, the award was in recognition of Ford and Slater’s commitment and approach to developing apprentices within the organisation. Other finalists in the category were Palletforce, Ryder and Royal Mail.
A long-time supporter of apprentices
Named DAF Trucks’ Technical Training Dealer of the Year 2018, Ford and Slater has been a passionate supporter of the DAF Apprentice Programme since its inception in 1995. Since that time 1700 apprentices, from 133 DAF dealers, have completed the DAF Programme, with over 200 graduating through Ford and Slater.
Phillip Clayton, Ford and Slater Commercial Operations Director explained the importance of supporting apprenticeships within Ford and Slater: “We aim to grow our business every year and from a service perspective this means increasing technician numbers. In recent years meeting this demand has been all but impossible. We were seeing numbers fall, with no surplus to call upon.
Clayton continued, “Against this background our ambition to improve the success rate of apprentices into our business is the single most important initiative we could undertake. We hope this will provide the best opportunity for the ongoing supply of talented young technicians capable of repairing our increasingly complicated trucks.”
It is an approach which has yielded impressive results for Ford and Slater over the years. Apprentices from the group have been recognised at the “DAF Apprentice of the Year” awards 20 times, 50 of their current workshop technicians began their career as an apprentice and 80% of Service Managers joined as apprentices.
The last 18 months – making changes
Building on this success, in the last 18 months the organisation has taken big steps to develop their apprenticeship programme further, most significantly through the appointment of a dedicated Group Apprentice Coordinator – Lee Sursham. The appointment of Lee has enabled the business to develop stronger relationships with local schools and colleges and provide a single point of contact for apprentices, ensuring consistency of support.
Tony Shepherd, Business Services Manager for DAF Trucks UK commented: “The decision by Ford and Slater to employ a dedicated Group Apprentice Coordinator has proven to be inspirational. His creativity, inventiveness and leadership of the Ford and Slater apprentices has impressed everyone involved in the DAF apprentice programme. This role ensures the apprentices have additional dedicated support and guidance which is welcomed by the busy Service Managers. The appointment has created a new desire amongst the apprentices to work as a team and succeed at the highest level possible. Truly inspirational.”
Lee has also taken a proactive approach to marketing the apprenticeship scheme, attending careers fairs, giving presentations in local schools, hosting open days at the Dealership locations and developing a new suite of printed and digital marketing material.
The apprentice panel
Lee has not been alone in these efforts, and perhaps one of the most innovative steps taken by Ford and Slater in the last 12 months is the creation of an “Apprentice Panel”. An initiative unique to Ford and Slater, the Apprentice Panel was born from a desire to develop the soft skills of apprentices and increase their engagement and inclusion in the programme and wider Ford and Slater business. What began with six apprentices in 2016 has extended to an apprentice ‘council’ with one apprentice representing the interests of each site.
Responsibilities of the Panel members include attending regular Panel meetings, developing marketing and recruitment ideas and sharing opinions and best practice on the programme and business as a whole, with a view towards continuous improvemen
Quality and quantity
The results of the efforts made over the last 18 months has been an increase in both the quality and quantity of the apprentice intake with 100% pass rate in the last two years, 95% retention rate from the 2017 intake and four apprentices shortlisted as finalists at the 2017 DAF Apprentice of the Year Awards.