Automotive isn’t always an obvious choice of career. For Dale Forder, HGV Apprentice at Ford and Slater, it came after his career in catering drew a blank. But since he has pursued his passion for mechanics, he has received nationwide acclaim, being nominated for not one but two apprentice awards, taking home the win in one.

Tell me about yourself and your apprenticeship?

I have recently finished a three-year course as a heavy vehicle technician with Ford and for DAF. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, really. I got into it a little bit later than a lot of other people do – I didn’t start until I was about 20-21. In some ways I’m glad I did do it that way because at that age I had a bit more of an understanding of how important it was to have a career and get going in life.

It was absolutely amazing how much I did. I got nominated each year for DAF Apprenticeship Apprentice of the year. I came second place on the third year, and also got nominated for the Commercial Motor Apprentice of the Year, and came home with the trophy on that one, which was absolutely amazing.

What inspired you to work in the automotive industry and on HGVs?

Outside of work, I absolutely love cars and motorbikes, and  I’ve got a few projects on the go. But I started off as a chef – I got a level three qualification in it.

But when I left college, I knew it wasn’t for me. I met someone who owns a boatyard near where I lived, and I turned up there one day and I said, ‘I haven’t got the paperwork to say I know about mechanics, but let me just do a week’s free work for you and I’ll show you what I can do’. The second day she hired me.

And I did that for a few years but knew I wanted to progress my knowledge and I needed the paperwork to do it. I put my CV on SkillNet and they gave me a call and it followed on from that. I feel it was a bit of luck and the stars aligned for me.

What does your day to day look like?

I do quite a lot. I do DAFaid, which is their breakdown service so I can be here and there and everywhere, fixing motors. I enjoy a lot of the technical work, so I work with the electrical side of things, on the ECUs and stuff like that. That really fascinates me on how it works, but at the minute I’m trying to get better at the mechanical side of things. There’s such a broad spectrum of what I do in my day to day job.

What are your ambitions in automotive?

I’d like to specialise in something but I don’t quite know yet because I’ve just got into the industry. I think I just want to spend a couple of years doing the training courses through DAF and get to the Master Tech side of things and then find something that I really want to specialise in.

How has your learning and working combined in this role?

I suffer with Dyslexia and can’t read or write very well, but I’m really good with visualising things and working with my hands. If I do that, I just take it in so much better.

And I’d say that’s probably been the best thing that an apprenticeship is – you learn on the job at the workshop and you see it there in front of you and get stuck in and plus you’ve got technicians with years of experience to show you as well.

Why should others pursue an apprenticeship?

I’d recommend doing an apprenticeship because the company sponsors you, they pay you for all your qualifications. At the end of your qualification, you haven’t got the whole weight of a debt behind you. You get to learn on the job as well, so you’re straight in the industry. You know what to expect. I’d recommend it all day to anyone, because it’s been absolutely amazing for me.

Doing an apprenticeship definitely brought me out my shell and taught me how to be an adult a little bit more, to rely on myself. It gives you so much more trust in yourself, trust in your ability and a lot more confidence, which I guess you might not get if you’re only going back and forth to college in your hometown.

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