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The Apprentice… You’re hired!

National programme searches for the next generation of fork lift specialists

Enthusiastic candidates from all parts of the UK enrol for a national programme, hungry for a life-changing apprenticeship and rewarding future career. No, not working for Sir Alan Sugar… but as a fork lift truck engineer.

The Fork Lift Truck Association has announced a new National Apprenticeship Programme, to combat the serious shortage of skilled service engineers – a situation which will get worse unless the whole materials handling industry takes action now.

Nationally, engineering has a rapidly ageing workforce, as engineers retiring have not been replaced by as many new recruits. “Without enough new trainees now, there won't be the experienced engineers we will all need in the future,” says FLTA Chief Executive David Ellison. “I would urge all employers to count how many of their engineers are in their forties and fifties – the majority in most cases – and take steps today to ensure there are enough trainees coming through to fill that gap.”

The FLTA believes apprentice training is an ideal solution for trainees and employers alike, combining useful work-based experience with an element of relevant, technical study – and the new programme will make the whole process easy for all concerned. In a twin track initiative, the Association is targeting young people – presenting the career as aspirational and every bit as rewarding as one in, say, the automotive industry. At the same time, the FLTA will be working closely with potential employers to help them find and develop the right recruit as easily as possible.

“Fork lift engineering offers an excellent career,” continues David Ellison, “and an apprenticeship is ideal for hands-on people, who may be better in practical situations than exams – the sort of trainee who often goes on to make an excellent engineer.

“It's great for the employer, too. In the short term, you can recruit an enthusiastic and practically minded member of staff for under £9,000 in the first year, while your experienced engineers get the buzz of passing their knowledge on. In the longer term, the company gains a loyal and well-trained engineer – our research shows home-grown recruits tend to give many more years of service than expensive, ready-trained staff poached from another employer.”

The programme is managed on the FLTA's behalf by the City of Bristol College, who also run similar, successful schemes for Porsche, British Telecom, and Royal Mail.

Apprentices are based in the workplace, where they earn as they learn by assisting experienced engineers – supported by structured, two-week blocks of college training. As their expertise increases, trainees take on greater responsibility at work, ready for full duties by the end of the three-year course.

The College will take care of trainees' recruitment, educational funding, assessments, learning support and pastoral care, making it straightforward even for companies with no experience of apprenticeships to find a great candidate, and offer quality training.

Those who employ their own engineers should see www.forktruckapprentice.org.uk or call the FLTA for a copy of the new apprenticeships brochure.

However, firms who use maintenance companies also have an important role to play. David Ellison explains: “Ask your maintenance company about their apprentices – and be pleased if your usual engineer brings one along with him: they're ensuring your trucks will have expert servicing for years to come!”

The FLTA can be contacted by calling 01256 381441, emailing tricia@fork-truck.org.uk or writing to the Fork Lift Truck Association, Manor Farm Buildings, Lasham, Alton, Hants, GU34 5SL.

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