I knew I wanted to be a mechanic from the age of six: my dad was an engineer and was always fixing things, and I got the bug.
Growing up, university was a possibility, however, I didn’t like the prospect of debt and wasn’t confident about getting a job afterwards, so didn’t want to take the risk. I had applied for a few apprentice positions at car and HGV dealers, but I was attracted to Ryder as I would be able to work on a variety of makes of vehicles rather than only the one at a dealer. Ryder also offered a much better rate of pay and was committed to investing in its apprentices – I got the impression that the others offered ‘just the apprenticeship’.
What I particularly liked about an apprenticeship with Ryder was block-release learning at Stephenson College [in Coalville, Leicestershire]. While full-time study at university is more independent, there isn’t as much practical work/hands-on experience. I knew I would be able to work with colleagues with a lot of experience and would be much more likely to get a job at the end of it. The dedicated two weeks at college was good because I could bring it back to the work place and apply it straight away. I would let my mentor and supervisors know what I had been working on and they would give me their input as soon as I was back in the workshop.
It was clear from the conversations I had with Ryder’s learning and development manager that Ryder was willing to invest in me, and I was grateful that someone was prepared to take a chance on me.
I was feeling very lost around this period of my life and needed the solid direction Ryder offered. I had researched Ryder and realised it is a massive company. I chose to apply for an apprentice role with Ryder as I knew it would offer me the chance to learn and earn in a supported environment.
Starting the apprenticeship, I was very nervous: it was something new, it was my first job and I had no understanding of HGVs.
After a few months of getting to know the team and sharing my background and issues, they became supportive in a brotherly way: this made for a great working relationship. Technician Richard Sparrow was a great mentor, and still is. I was very lucky that he was happy to share so much of his knowledge and experiences with me. His easy-going manner made the experience enjoyable.
My first year at Stephenson College was not too challenging as I had experience with cars. If there were elements that I struggled with, I was able to approach my tutor, who was always on hand to help. It was good that I was able to come back and put these experiences into practice at the Ryder location, and would often get quizzed by Richard on what I had learnt, keeping the lessons I’d learned fresh in my mind.
By the second year, I had settled in. I was in a routine and was confident around my peers: we had become friends, everyone was helpful. College became a more familiar place and the lessons became harder and more informative, but I was in good place so I could take on these challenges.
Lucy Jones [Ryder learning and development advisor) was amazing throughout my whole journey; she was always at the end of the phone and nothing was too much trouble. Lucy and Andy Dunne, workshop supervisor at Ryder’s Milton Keynes location, were everything I could have needed them to be when my dad passed away.
The third year didn’t start off great. I wasn’t applying myself as much; I lost focus; but then I found out I was going to become a dad myself, and this was what I needed. I told myself I need to do this for me and for my family. With the support from Andy, Billy Thomson [workshop supervisor], Lucy and Richard, I got my head down and worked extremely hard and had the best six months ever. I finished my apprenticeship on a high. To have my partner and son by my side at graduation was total fulfilment. I’d achieved. I am someone my son can look up to.
I became a fully qualified HGV mechanic with a full-time job at the age of 22. I was particularly proud of my achievements in two very complex areas – more complex than cars – the exhaust system and the air braking system in particular.
Since completing my time at Stephenson College, I have undertaken additional training: LOLER weight test, roadside assistance, first aid and advanced automotive electrics.
I also took the opportunity to support Ryder with the recruitment of new apprentices by attending the National Apprenticeship Show in March 2017. Working on the stand for two days, I engaged with students of all ages, their parents and education professionals. I talked to visitors about the Ryder apprenticeship programme as well as my own experiences and was able to encourage those who were thinking of applying. I was surprised to see that people were queuing up to speak with me!
I was also invited by my location manager Hayley Hendrickson to join Ryder’s Operations Engagement Forum as a representative for my location in Milton Keynes. The main objective is to improve employee and customer satisfaction. Through the forum, I am able to discuss new working initiatives and share my opinions and those of my colleagues directly with the senior management team.
We have employed a new apprentice at Ryder Milton Keynes and I am pleased that I will be part of the support structure enabling them to succeed.