Sapphire Vehicle Services is looking forward to harvesting a new crop of qualified, motivated technicians, from the seeds sown in its own dedicated apprenticeship programme.
The Derbyshire-based company, which maintains the fleets of some of the UK’s leading commercial vehicle operators, began training its own apprentices two years ago.
The eight members of that first intake are now in the final stretch of their three-year courses, and looking forward to beginning their careers as fully trained Sapphire truck and van technicians. Eight more, who joined the scheme in 2020, have just begun their second years, while a further batch of eight started on the journey this month (September).
Setting up and continuing to run its own, independent apprenticeship programme required significant outlay by Sapphire Vehicle Services. “But we consider every penny invested to be money well spent,” asserted Group Operations Manager Dave Williams.
“These apprentices are our stars of the future and by giving them the best possible training now, at the beginning of their careers, we can help ensure they become highly valued and productive members of our workshop teams, for many years to come. ‘Growing our own’ will also make us better able to continue providing the exacting standards of customer service upon which we’ve built our success, going forward.”
Sapphire apprentices undergo a comprehensive regime which includes classroom sessions and time spent in the workshop, leading to a nationally recognised NVQ Level 3 qualification in Heavy Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. But the course only starts once they’ve won a coveted place on the scheme, following a rigorous selection process which includes interviews, aptitude tests and assessments of basic maths and English.
“Candidates come to us from different backgrounds – some straight from school or college, others with a few years of work behind them, and not all with experience of the vehicle trade,” continued Dave. “Far more important is a positive approach and attitude, and a determination to learn and develop the skills that will equip them to start a rewarding career with good prospects.
“We impress upon our young apprentices that we’re not just training them to be qualified technicians, but hopefully also to be the senior managers of the future.”
Among those now working their way through the scheme are Rhys Day and Ayden West, both of whom have combined hands-on experience at Sapphire’s Basingstoke depot with blocks spent at Stephenson College, near Coalville in Leicestershire.
For 20-year-old Rhys, who lives in Reading, the finish line is in sight – he’s now in the final year of his apprenticeship. Although he was at studying engineering at college before joining the Sapphire programme, he had no background in the truck or transport industries.
“This apprenticeship scheme is everything I was looking for,” he said. “The training includes a great mix of classroom learning and opportunities to actually get your hands on engines, gearboxes and the like in a real workshop.
“We’ve been very well looked after throughout, with accommodation provided while we were at Stephenson College and supportive mentoring from senior colleagues. I’m now looking forward to graduating and continuing my journey as a qualified truck technician,” continued Rhys – who likes to relax by playing computer games or riding his longboard.
Ayden is also 20 years old and hails from Basingstoke, and is now in the second year of his course. He had previously studied light vehicle mechanics at college in his hometown, and was working in a sandwich shop while looking for an apprenticeship opportunity when the chance to join Sapphire came up.
“It’s a fantastic scheme, with structured development and a plan of targets to aim for, and great support from teachers at the college and qualified colleagues in the workshop,” he said.
“Both Rhys and I are also very proud of our 400-piece toolkits, which are provided by the company from day one – we pay back half the cost over the first two years of our course and Sapphire covers the rest. The tools are useful in our jobs but owning our own kit also help us feel like fully integrated members of the team.”
Outside work Ayden is a keen six-a-side footballer and also uses his skills to maintain his mum’s car.
“Both Ayden and Rhys are great ambassadors for our apprenticeship scheme,” said Dave Williams. “They’ve worked very hard and are now nearing the time when, assuming all goes well, their efforts will be rewarded with qualification and full-time positions with a company that’s really going places. They are a great example to the younger apprentices on the programme and can be very proud of what they’ve achieved so far.”