Sparshatt Truck & Van recruits new apprentices

Sparshatt Truck & Van recruits new apprentices

Sparshatt Truck & Van is supporting the future of the automotive industry as it recruits new apprentices for the third successive year. CVW learns what it’s all about.

Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealership, Sparshatt Truck & Van, is rightly celebrating the success of its apprenticeship scheme across its sites in Dartford, Sittingbourne, Ashford, and Tonbridge. The Kent-based award-winning Mercedes Benz and FUSO brand is currently processing applications for its 2024 cohort.

After the academy’s launch in 2020, Sparshatt remains the only Mercedes-Benz franchise dealership with its own academy.

The dealership started the academy to encourage more young professionals into the industry and increase the number of skilled technicians available, as part of its commitment to cultivating a ‘people first’ culture across its depots.

The three-year apprenticeship scheme provides a Level-3 qualification in Heavy Vehicle Service and Maintenance, awarded by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). After the third year, successful apprentices are trained to use their new skills in the workplace during an ‘improver year’.

Sparshatt Truck & Van recruits new apprentices
Ellie Barton, part of the 2023 intake of apprentice technicians.

Qualified approach

The apprenticeship consists of four days within the workshop and one day in the Sparshatt Training Academy classroom developing knowledge and learning skills.

Modules include Health and Safety, Heavy Vehicle Maintenance, and using hand tools in year one, with apprentices then progressing onto Heavy Vehicle Engine and Electrical System Units and Components in year two. The final year involves diagnosing and rectifying heavy vehicle engine and chassis system faults, and how to inspect heavy vehicles to comply with requirements. Apprentices work alongside highly qualified Mercedes-Benz technicians to understand the latest automotive technology and equipment.

Apprentices also benefit from interest-free loans to help fund tools and toolboxes, healthcare cashback and access to wellbeing support via Simply Health. Other benefits include access to bonus and cycle-to-work schemes.

Sparshatt Truck & Van recruits new apprentices

To date the academy has been a huge success, with eight graduates now employed full-time by the dealership, and Sparshatt being graded as ‘good’ across all areas in its first Ofsted inspection. The academy is managed by Joanne Jackson, head of aftersales, who with the support of Steve Rooney, dealer principal, decided in 2019 to create the Sparshatt Training Academy, opening its doors in January 2020.

Talking about the success of the academy, Joanne says: “We recognised a shortage of highly skilled heavy vehicle technicians across the industry and have cultivated an environment where the passion and expertise within the business is passed down to future technicians.

“We are proud of our Training Academy and the nine apprentices who have graduated from our Apprentice Programme – one of our 2023 graduates, Daniel Clark, won the East Kent Apprentice of the Year for Engineering, while first-year apprentice Ellie Barton was shortlisted.

“The academy is clear evidence of how much we invest in our people and care about their future, with each apprentice receiving a high level of support, including all training being delivered face-to-face within our fully equipped workshop.”

James Avison is the academy trainer who, after working in truck workshops for many years with the company, re-trained and is now offering hands-on learning while keeping abreast of the latest automotive technology.

Apprentices are also supported by Sarah Hayward, throughout their journey, who is always on hand to help each be the best they can be in her role as academy pastoral and learning coach.

Sparshatt Truck & Van recruits new apprentices

Sarah comments: “I love that we are providing young people with quality training to fill a vital skill gap and keep trucks and vans on the road supporting the supply chain.”

Real world experience

That love is a two-way street as Callum Brown, 21, who graduated from the Sparshatt training academy this year and is now a qualified Heavy Vehicle Technician at the dealership’s Sittingbourne depot, explains: “I completed my work experience at Sparshatt when I was at school, and I knew that once I had left, I wanted to be a mechanic.

“The training academy was great, I loved going to college every week and learning new things, working with new people, and gaining information that I would need for my apprenticeship from experienced trainers.”

Callum, who hails from the nearby Isle of Sheppey, hopes to work his way up: “The training academy is a great opportunity to gain experience and knowledge. Plus, you will come out with a great qualification at the end of it – I would recommend it to everyone!”

Sarah Hayward is Sparshatt Truck & Van’s Academy pastoral and learning coach.

Matt Grant, an apprentice technician from the 2023 intake says: “I wanted to be part of a team and help keep the trucks we all rely on on the road, and this apprenticeship has allowed me to do that while learning valuable trade skills.”

Another of the cohort Ellie Barton goes on: “A full-time college course did not appeal to me, but the Heavy Vehicle Service and Maintenance Technician apprenticeship suits me perfectly.

“I can learn and earn at the same time, on the job and while at college. I have worked on trucks from a young age, so it made sense to learn something I am passionate about.”

Apprentice Flynn Holmes adds: “I’m a problem solver and enjoy finding solutions on the job. Being an apprentice has allowed me to learn while experiencing the real world of work.”

Successful applicants for the 2024 intake will be invited to a selection day which will take place in October. The new apprentices will then start in November and December with training commencing in January.

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