The commercial vehicle sector arguably doesn’t get the coverage it deserves with so much focus taken by passenger vehicles as electrification becomes more mainstream. But heavy vehicles are often the starting point for some of the most advanced technologies, and that’s reflected in the skills you need to work on them.

It’s why Scania places so much emphasis on its apprenticeship programmes, giving a new generation of talent the competence to work on some of the most advanced vehicles on the road.

The company’s apprentice-led ethos was highlighted at last year’s IMI Skills Competitions finals, where Scania apprentice George Hinkley took home gold (along with a few more accolades that year).

MotorPro sat down with Aaron McGrath, Head of People Development and Andrew Webb who’s in charge of apprenticeship programmes to find out what drives Scania to invest so heavily in upskilling a new generation of commercial vehicle talent.

MotorPro: What does Scania’s apprenticeship programme look like at the moment?

McGrath: We have a programme just shy of 300 learners. They’re working towards the 36-month qualification in heavy vehicles. We have a mix of English, Welsh, Scottish learners so we have English on standards, Welsh and Scottish on frameworks. All of that is outsourced to our partner Remit. Remit host and facilitate the programme.

We’re aiming to grow the heavy vehicle programme by 10% year on year for the next three or four years because that essentially is our pipeline of new technicians coming into the industry.

What’s driving expansion of the apprenticeship programme?

McGrath: Recruitment and retention of technicians is a huge topic on our agenda. We see the apprentice programme as the best answer because we can train the learners from day one on the Scania way, the Scania products, get them qualified. Then hopefully, we treat them well and they stay with us, and for the duration and we’ve grown them from the ground up, essentially as a fully-fledged heavy vehicle technician.

Moving towards the era of electrification, by 2025 the ambition is to be selling around 10% of our production volume as electric vehicles. In the UK that’s around 750 trucks a year that will be electrified, and that will increase up towards 2030 where we’ll be selling 50% of all our products electrified. That might bring probably three and a half thousand or more trucks into the market per year. That is a challenge for us now in ramping up training, not just for technicians, but also new blood, new apprentices, and getting them skilled.

How do you convince a new generation of apprentices that working on heavy vehicles is the right career choice?

Webb: There’s winning the hearts of the minds of the potential candidates, but I think there’s also winning the hearts and minds of the people that influence those candidates, for example parents.

Apprenticeships are an absolutely fantastic way of getting into working life and actually getting a career that allows some people that don’t want to just study, actually get qualifications. I would argue it’s a better way because you’re getting industry experience, and at the end you have a job and don’t walk away with thousands upon thousands of pounds worth of debt.

New technologies could help make the sector more attractive, but how do you reach youngsters and inspire them to get involved?

McGrath: We’re working on the attraction and the brand marketing. We have to get into schools. I think allowing that age of kids to touch and feel products and give them a flavour of what we’re about – the amount of technology in the vehicle is just immense. The way we deal with the data and diagnose the vehicle, it’s all using tablet devices, everything really, that would appeal then to the younger generation.

Once someone finishes their apprenticeship, how important is it that they can continue their development?

McGrath: We’re giving clear pathways from apprentice to technician, to senior technician, to master technician. After master technician, you can then get into technical support for example. You can also then jump off towards other roles that support organisations. For argument’s sake, you could start in the workshop and end up in the sales department.

How important are people like IMI Skills Competitions winner George Hinkley, in encouraging other apprentices to push themselves as far as possible in their career?

McGrath: It’s absolutely important. It’s that aspirational thing, if you can see your peers, your colleagues getting to that level, I think it pushes a lot of people. The ones who are motivated, it pushes them to be better and to want that title.

We have [an internal] competition called Top Team and that’s a global competition for all of the technical roles, service roles, parts roles, where a workshop can actually enter as a team. They can compete against other teams and it’s another aspirational point.

If you were sat in front of a room full of kids thinking about what their next steps should be, how would you convince them to head down the commercial vehicle route?

McGrath: From my point of view, I’ve come from an area of the country that’s probably quite deprived and I’m working for the premium manufacturer in the market.

I think just so many opportunities. One day you can be in a truck workshop the next day you can be in a quarry, day after you could be on a wind farm boat. It’s honestly so diverse.

Webb: It’s an industry that’s very personable. It’s not a dog-eat-dog industry. It’s an industry about people working as part of a team, helping each other to give a great customer experience. If you work in the motor industry, whether it’s heavy or light, it’s a great industry.

Find out more about apprenticeship programme, whether you want to start your learning journey, or bring an apprentice into your business

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