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Apprentice view: A Professional Driver Programme Apprenticeship at Wincanton

Industry views | 07 March 2019

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Colin Rideout (50) and Ewan Watson (51) are close to finishing their Professional Driver Programme Apprenticeships at Wincanton. Both have been working as part of the two-man delivery team for a major high street retailer, learning about the role of the Delivery Technician while acquiring their Class 2 licences.

We caught up with them to hear more about their experiences and how they’ve got on…

How did you find out about and get involved with the Professional Driver Programme Apprenticeship at Wincanton?

Colin Rideout: I was already working at Wincanton as a Porter on two-man deliveries and I was asked if I’d be interested in qualifying to become an HGV driver. It wasn’t something I’d really thought about before starting at Wincanton, but having seen the job up close, I was interested.

Ewan Watson: I saw the job specification and I liked the look of it. I was working in sales for an insurance company and I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing; I was looking for a change.

I went to Wincanton’s first ever driver academy, which was set up in partnership with N-Gaged, the training provider. Everything was explained in more detail and they told me about the national shortage in qualified HGV drivers. I half-jokingly said ‘this sounds fun’ and they came back and said ‘if you fancy it, we’ll sign you up’. I gave it some more thought and realised that this was something I wanted to do, and here I am now.

How have you found the apprenticeship so far?

EW: To start with I spent a week at college learning the basics and then Wincanton came in for a careers visit. We spoke about the career and working for them while qualifying to be an HGV driver. They selected a few of us for the programme and secured us a driver job, meaning we could earn more money while we were learning. I was impressed, so I accepted.

After starting in the job and studying at college I did an intensive week-long course about half way through the year to qualify for my Class 2 licence. After that, I did more and more work to get my experience up ahead of my EPA (End Point Assessment); which is essentially a test of your ability to become a Delivery Technician.

CR: I was a bit nervous about doing the apprenticeship at first. Doing exams in English and maths again was something I wasn’t keen on, as I hadn’t been in education since the early 1980s. It was hard and there was a point that I thought to myself ‘do I want to do this?’, but I came through it. The tutors give lots of support and that really helped me to get the grades I needed.

I’ve got what I wanted to get from my apprenticeship; my Class 2 licence. I’ve also done things I didn’t think I could do.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your apprenticeship?

CR: The English and maths parts of the apprenticeship were difficult. Also, in my first week I had to do a presentation to my classmates using PowerPoint. I’m not very computer literate and don’t like speaking in front of lots of people, so this was an early test for me. I’ve always done things the old fashioned way, so I was really proud of myself for learning new things to get through it and do a good job; it was a real achievement.

EW: Getting to know some of the initial skills was challenging. There’s a lot to take in quite quickly, both in the classroom and at work.

I had the people around me to help. The drivers in my team were really helpful with this as they’d all had to learn the job at some point. As long as you show the willingness to try and are honest, someone will always help.

Have your previous jobs and experience helped?

CR: I’d say so, yes. I was working for Wincanton when I started the apprenticeship as a Porter doing two-man deliveries, so I knew bits about the job. Before that, I was a support worker working in care.

Being good with people is important in all of these jobs. As a care support worker, you’ve got to be understanding and calm under pressure, and situations during deliveries need the same things. You’re under pressure to get things right, make sure the customer is happy and get everything done on time.

EW: It’s a totally different career coming from sales to HGV driving and working in two-man deliveries. But, in both you have to deal with customers and make sure they’re happy with you and what you’re doing for them.

You have to be polite and understanding of what they need, and you have to do that pretty quickly. I had those skills already I suppose, so I was able to take what I knew, combine it with what I was learning and do the job. I’ve always been good with people, and that’s a massive part of what this job is about.

What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship?

EW: For me, it’s been about doing something completely different in a risk-free environment. The cost of getting my Class 2 licence was paid for, and I was able to work and learn new things while acquiring it. I saw it as a workable route into a new career, which is what I wanted.

CR: I’ve enjoyed everything. It’s been great to get my Class 2 licence, but as well as that I’ve accomplished things I didn’t think I could.

What are your career plans now?

CR: I’m still with Wincanton as a Driver Technician and am keen to stay to build my experience in the job.

EW: I’m also working full-time as a Driver Technician with Wincanton, building my experience.

What advice would you give to someone considering the Professional Driver Programme Apprenticeship?

EW: Just give it a go. Don’t be afraid to try it and see if you like it. I certainly have liked it.

CR: Just do it! Go ahead and don’t worry.

For more information about Professional Driver Programme Apprenticeships at Wincanton, email us at: pdp@wincanton.co.uk

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For further information please contact:

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