Jay Ahmed works as an HGV technician with Ryder, a leading independent provider of commercial vehicle contract hire, rent and maintenance. He joined Ryder’s apprentice programme in 2013 and graduated three years later. He was shortlisted for the Apprentice of the Year in the Engineering and Manufacturing category of the Asian Apprenticeship Awards 2017, and is a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category of the prestigious Semta Skills Awards 2018. He’s now undertaking an HNC in Automotive Engineering, which he’s due to complete this year. This, in his own words, is his story.
I knew I wanted to be a mechanic from the age of six: my dad was an engineer and was always fixing things and I got the bug.
Growing up, university was a possibility, however, I didn’t like the prospect of debt and wasn’t confident about getting a job afterwards, so I didn’t want to take the risk. I had applied for a few apprentice positions at car and HGV dealers, but I was attracted to Ryder as I would be able to work on a variety of makes of vehicles rather than only the one at a dealer. Ryder also offered a much better rate of pay and was committed to investing in its apprentices – I got the impression that the others offered ‘just the apprenticeship’.
What I particularly liked about an apprenticeship with Ryder was block-release learning at Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire. While full-time study at university is more independent, there isn’t as much practical work/hands-on experience. I knew I would be able to work with colleagues with a lot of experience and would be much more likely to get a job at the end of it. The dedicated two weeks at college was good because I could bring it back to the work place and apply it straight away. I would let my mentor and supervisors know what I had been working on and they would give me their input as soon as I was back in the workshop.
It was clear from the conversations I had with Ryder’s Learning and Development Manager that Ryder were willing to invest in me, and I was grateful that someone was prepared to take a chance on me.
Starting the apprenticeship, I was very nervous: it was something new, it was my first job and I had no understanding of HGVs.
After a few months of getting to know the team and sharing my background and issues, they became supportive in a brotherly way: this made for a great working relationship. Richard Sparrow, Technician, was a great mentor and still is. I was very lucky that he was happy to share so much of his knowledge and experiences with me. His easy-going manner made the experience enjoyable.
My first year at Stephenson College was not too challenging as I had experience with cars. If there were elements that I struggled with, I was able to approach my tutor, who was always on hand to help. It was good that I was able to come back and put these experiences into practice at the Ryder location, and would often get quizzed by Richard on what I had learnt, keeping the lessons I’d learnt fresh in my mind.
By the second year, I had settled in. I was in a routine and was confident around my peers: we had become friends, everyone was helpful. College became a more familiar place and the lessons became harder and more informative, but I was in good place so I could take on these challenges.
Lucy Jones, Ryder Learning and Development Advisor, was amazing throughout my whole journey, she was always at the end of the phone and nothing was too much trouble. Lucy and Andy Dunne, Workshop Supervisor at Ryder’s Milton Keynes location, were everything I could have needed them to be when my dad passed away.
The third year didn’t start off great. I wasn’t applying myself as much, I lost focus, but then I found out I was going to become a dad and this was what I needed. I told myself I need to do this for myself and for my child. With the support from Andy, Billy Thomson, Workshop Supervisor, Lucy and Richard, I got my head down and worked extremely hard and had the best six months ever. I finished my apprenticeship on a high. To have my partner and son by my side at graduation was total fulfilment. I’d achieved. I am someone my son can look up to.
I became a fully qualified HGV mechanic with a full-time job at the age of 22. I was particularly proud of my achievements in two very complex areas – more complex than cars: the exhaust system and the air braking system in particular.
Since completing my time at Stephenson College, I have undertaken additional training: LOLER weight test; roadside assistance; first aid; and advanced automotive electrics.
I also took the opportunity to support Ryder with the recruitment of new apprentices by attending the National Apprenticeship Show in March 2017. Working on the stand for two days, I engaged with students of all ages, their parents and education professionals. I talked to visitors about the Ryder apprenticeship programme as well as my own experiences and was able to encourage those who were thinking of applying. I was surprised to see that people were queuing up to speak with me!
I was also invited by my location manager Hayley Hendrickson to join Ryder’s Operations Engagement Forum as a representative for my location in Milton Keynes. The main objective is to improve employee and customer satisfaction. Through the forum, I am able to discuss new working initiatives and share my opinions and those of my colleagues directly with the senior management team.
We have employed a new apprentice at Ryder Milton Keynes and I am pleased that I will be part of the support structure enabling them to succeed.