Ciaran Blakemore (26), is General Manager at Scania Southampton. He has been in his current position since October 2018, but his journey started, at Scania Heathrow in 2012 at the age of 20, when Ciaran started a Heavy Vehicle Technician apprenticeship.
For those getting their exam results this week, he is urging anyone considering their first steps into the world of work this year to really think about doing an apprenticeship and take advantage of the career opportunities this can present.
Ciaran’s story started, after completing A Levels at Alton College in Music Technology, Psychology and Film Studies. Ciaran wanted to earn some money so took two part-time jobs, working in the warehouse of a local supermarket and pot washing for a local catering company. But after a year or so, Ciaran decided that he wanted a more stable income.
“University has never appealed to me, particularly the idea of taking on that much debt and getting a degree that I may never use. But I knew I didn’t want part time jobs forever”, says Ciaran.
“I had no real interest in engines or cars, I barely mended my bike. But my dad is an editor of a commercial vehicle magazine, so I had spent time proof-reading pages on trucks and engines but that was it.
“I looked into an apprenticeship and found out about a whole new world of trucks and just what it could lead to; formula 1, pit crews. It seemed the best way to get a career.”
Ciaran found out about an Apprenticeship opportunity at Scania Heathrow, applied, got an interview and started at three-year Heavy Vehicle Technician Apprenticeship. This meant undertaking block release at Scania’s state of the art training centre in Loughborough and work-based coaching and mentoring at the dealership.
“I had to start at the bottom, I was observing a lot, doing basic repairs like changing lightbulbs and things but over time, I got my own jobs, I learned by having a go and if I didn’t know, I asked, and someone helped me!” says Ciaran.
His development took another step forward at the end of his second year, when he started working on the Scania road-side assistance truck. Ciaran was a solo driver offering roadside assistance to Scania truck drivers who needed to get their vehicles back on the road, dealing with a range of faults and repairs.
In his third year, Ciaran admits the learning was more in-depth, apprentices are required to undertake more diagnostic work handling their own jobs independently while working across Scania’s portfolio of engines, commercial, industrial and maritime vehicles.
Ciaran’s development as an apprentice was rewarded with consecutive Scania Apprentice of the Year awards in 2013 and 2014 Apprentice and subsequently an IMI Outstanding Achiever Award in 2015, perhaps marking him out as a high achiever.
Ciaran was offered a chance to move off the workshop floor and took a position within the Process Improvement Department at Scania. He was now working with 13 dealerships across the south west, trying to identify deviations in processes, inefficiencies, or implementing efficiency improvements to save time and money across the network.
“I went from one workshop to working with colleagues globally. I started to see bits of the bigger picture”, says Ciaran.
After three years in this role Ciaran took another major step up the career ladder. He was enrolled on the Scania Management Trainee Programme and as part of this spent time on secondment as General Manager at the Scania Leeds branch for six-months before taking up his full-time role in Southampton.
His new role sees him on the workshop floor much less, but he admits that his time as an apprentice technician has helped him build the foundations of his career.
“My role now is about running the business, managing colleagues and building relationships with customers”, says Ciaran.
“My time as an apprentice though has definitely helped. When I am speaking to the technicians, asking them to do something, they know I have done it before, but they also appreciate that I know what they are going through. But also, when I deal with customers, from a technical position, I know the faults they may have, how long repairs can take and be able to identify possible underlying issues to be addressed. I think this really helps me as a General Manager.”
“Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to learn and earn. The heavy vehicle technician apprenticeship is three years long, which is the same as most degrees, but you are hands-on, putting your skills to the test every day, not just in a classroom. And you are earning all the time. It means, at the end, you can build a strong CV and we know that technicians are always in demand. I think it is well worth the effort.
For more information go to: Scania.co.uk/apprenticeships