The importance of skills

Workshop People
April’s Commercial Vehicle Show gave George Haywood, workshop manager at TIP Lichfield, the opportunity to talk about his experiences in the transport sector and to highlight the importance of people and competencies

There was an extra element to the 2024 Commercial Vehicle Show, with a three-day seminar introduced to the industry event. On the third day of the show, IRTE kicked off proceedings in the conference setting with George Haywood (pictured, inset right), workshop manager at TIP Lichfield. He talked about the need for skills and how to equip engineers with the tools they need to deal with the complexities of the modern workshop.

Haywood described his background, going back to his initial shock at the realisation of how he wouldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps as a coal miner. “I have always had a passion for mechanical and electrical engineering and was focused on gaining an apprenticeship with British Coal as an engineer working at the Holditch colliery,” he recalled. “However, when I was 15, my father dropped the bombshell that the future of coal production in the UK was bleak and I probably wouldn’t even complete my training before the mines were closed.

“Luckily for me, the YTS scheme was in full force at that time,” he added. “It was basically the equivalent of a modern two-year apprenticeship. My placement was with Centurion Commercials, which later became West Pennine Trucks, the Scania main dealer in Stoke-on-Trent and its surrounding areas.” Following the completion of his training, Haywood gained a full-time job at Centurion, working his way up to master technician. His desire to keep on learning and progressing his career led him to become workshop manager at TIP Lichfield.


Turning to the transport industry, Haywood stated that sources suggest there is a projected shortfall of 30,000 engineers by 2035. “Over the last decade, the trend with school-leavers is the ‘direct to further education’ approach. College then university and, as a consequence, the apprenticeship route has suffered,” he said. “Apprenticeships are somewhat looked down upon as a second-class choice for the youth of today, but we need to bring to the forefront the fact that this industry is an excellent career choice and one that is very rewarding and appealing. You will learn soft skills that are crucial for today’s modern working environment and also build a network of contacts that will shape your career path. Furthermore, the qualifications you can attain are absolutely phenomenal without getting into debt!"

Briefly turning back to his own experiences, Haywood praised his own employer for supporting him in both his career advancement and the advancement and care of all of its employees. “Employer support is a critical component of any business, if it wants to flourish and grow,” he reasoned. “It brings with it a support network and a feeling of togetherness, which, in the tough times we are experiencing lately, is priceless.”

Haywood then moved on to the importance of competency and how it can be achieved within the transport and logistics sector. He highlighted the need to recognise the strengths and weaknesses that people have. “You could have a technician who is extremely competent in, for example, rebuilding an engine, but give them an electrical fault to deal with and they’re stuck,” he recognised, before suggesting a way forward. “Assign the competent person as a mentor who will guide and assist and encourage. Upskill, where possible, with courses and development. Hold regular updates and offer words of encouragement, but also give constructive feedback. Once confidence and familiarity has been built in, assign those difficult jobs to people.”


Now, more than ever, it is time to encourage engineers out of the comfort zone, said Haywood, specifically referencing to the technological revolution that is taking over vehicles. “Our current workforce needs to be upskilled and we need to prepare the next generation of engineers for the future. In fact, it’s Gen Z who will, in all probability, excel in the latest technology due to the fact they have grown up with it and it comes as second nature to them. That makes our industry the perfect choice for them to come into and flourish.

“Investment is not always financial – the largest investment you can give is your time, experience, understanding and patience,” he added. “Everyone’s learning capability is different, but one of the best feelings in the world is when you see someone succeed. The sense of pride that comes as a direct result of the actions implemented to assist and develop an individual, to increase their competency and confidence, is immeasurable.”

Once again Haywood drew on his own experiences while underlying the importance of the SOE, IRTE and the Engineering Council. “To understand the role within our industry that the SOE/IRTE has, it’s important to ask why people join the organisation in the first place. As I mentioned previously, I come from a working class background and university wasn’t an option for me – not because it wasn’t available but I was more drawn towards a hands-on approach, combined with academia rather than solely academic,” he recalled.

“So for thirty years I undertook as many courses as I could. I expanded my knowledge not only through academia, but learning from the best on how to approach numerous situations and challenges at a grass roots level. And, as time went on, I pondered that the industry we are in deserves to be recognised and promoted. We have such a wealth of talent and some incredibly intelligent individuals but, as a whole, our industry – or rather those who work in it – are sometimes perceived as ‘hammer-wielding individuals’ or ‘grease monkeys’. These assessments could not be further from the truth. Our skillset includes: engineering; fabrication; electrics; electronics; pneumatics; hydraulics; mathematics; science and much more.”

The recognition he was looking for led Haywood to the IRTE, SOE and the Engineering Council. “To have my industry achievements and experiences and qualifications acknowledged and accredited by an external organisation confirmed my belief that we are indeed a highly skilled and invaluable trade to be a member of,” he said.

“Today, I nurture my apprentices and enrol them into the IRTE/SOE at apprentice level. I also give advice and help to people who have reached out to me regarding membership. Personally, I applied for membership at Fellow level and was fortunate to achieve the accreditation.”

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