Feature: How Leyland Trucks is helping to address the UK’s skills shortage

07 August 2018

Britain’s biggest truck maker is marking the first anniversary for employees who completed an innovative programme it developed to harness and develop skills of workers below the age of 30 – a move that it sees as critical to address a skills shortage in UK manufacturing.

The Leyland Trucks Employee Career Pathway (ECP) scheme was first introduced at the company’s manufacturing facility in Leyland, Lancashire, in 2015, offering employees full-time training across a broad range of roles, to improve their skills and widen their career options. The plant is home to the DAF LF, CF and XF models and is one of the most productive truck plants in Europe, manufacturing around 18,000 trucks per year.

The scheme initially focussed on engineering but is now expanding to provide opportunities in other business areas.

Over two years, the scheme allows employees to dedicate 100% of their time to learning, leaving their current role, and embarking on structured rotations in assembly engineering, supplier quality assurance and design engineering. In addition, participants are encouraged to complete further education in engineering related courses, to expand the applied learning gained on each rotation.

The first employees to complete the scheme (in July 2017) are now one year into their new roles, and are keen to promote the opportunities the scheme has presented.

Josh Little, 30, from Preston, started work at Leyland Trucks as an apprentice 11 years ago, and is now a Commodity Manager in purchasing. He said, “My background was electrical engineering, and I had worked on different production and manufacturing engineering functions. I saw the ECP route as a way to progress these skills further, but I didn’t realise just how much I would learn.

“The scheme exposes you to departments you wouldn’t usually see, for example manufacturing wouldn’t have day to day contact with the supply base, where I now work. It has certainly broadened my exposure to the wider company and without a doubt helped me progress and better achieve in my new role.”

Sean Winstanley, 27, from Chorley has also just completed his first year as a Design Engineer after completing the ECP, designing chassis and suspension systems. Sean stared work at Leyland eight years ago as a prototype fabrication apprentice, spending four years as an apprentice and one year as full fabricator. He said, “I am quite an academic person, and knew that engineering was what I wanted to do. I met suppliers during my Supply Quality Assurance rotation, and gained a much deeper understanding of their processes, which helps the design process.”

The ECP encourages participants to look to further education, with day release for university an option. Josh is about to start his final year of a Mechanical and Production Engineering degree at Lancaster University, and Sean is completing his final year of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Central Lancashire. Josh said, “The ECP made me re-evaluate my role and think about what I could do as my career develops. If friends and family ask me what the company is like, I always mention the ECP and the opportunities it has given me.”

Leyland Trucks created the programme in 2015 to make sure the talent fostered in its apprentice scheme was fully nurtured, and to give its locally-based workforce additional opportunities to further their professional education. Now in its fourth year, there are currently five employees on rotation in engineering, with a new Finance Career Pathway set up in 2017, on the strength of the engineering route.

HR Director, Ivan Shearer at Leyland Trucks said: “The scheme aims to build upon base knowledge and supplement with learned experience in other technical departments. It helps the business develop the skills and knowledge required for the future.

“Taking people out of their current roles and putting them into full-time training represents a significant investment for us, but we are fortunate to have a bank of talented and committed people employed at Leyland.”

The company is also looking at the next generation of ECP candidates, with an intake of 43 apprentices joining the company in 2018, many of whom will be working outside of the manufacturing environment seen as traditional for apprenticeships.

“The apprenticeship programme has always been an important element of Leyland’s employment and retention strategy,” added Shearer. “While apprentices continue to be offered opportunities within our assembly areas, roles have now been expanded to include placements in the business, design engineering, fabrication, IT and maintenance departments.”

Apprenticeships at Leyland offer a mixture of on-the-job training in conjunction with formal learning via partner colleges. On joining the company, every apprentice is given a structured plan for their development which includes a clear and logical sequence of rotations between departments as they move from one learning area to the next.

For 21 year-old first-year apprentice Ian Aspinwall, the chance to complete an apprenticeship helped answer his desire to further the skills learnt at A-Level while earning a living. Ian, an automotive engineering apprentice, lives in Southport, Merseyside, commuting to the Leyland site. He said: “I did work experience here during High School, and then after doing my A-Levels I realised Uni wasn’t for me, so decided to apply.

“I am really enjoying it, we rotate across the whole manufacturing facility, so we understand exactly how the process works and I’m finding I am far more engaged in the college work, as I can see its use in the workplace.

Ian added: “A lot of apprenticeship programmes don’t offer the chance of a long-term job or career plan, but that isn’t the case at Leyland, and this is something which really appealed to me.”

Fellow apprentice Eloise Howard, 19, joined the Leyland Trucks Business apprentice programme in its parts division and is now in her second year. Eloise, who completed A-Levels in Business, History and Biology, said: “I did apply for university but felt it would just set me back, whereas an apprenticeship would help me work my way up and give me a clear path.”

Eloise completed her two-year level 4 Business Administration qualification in just over one year, and has worked in the customer service, technical service and materials departments. She is currently working towards a Chartered Manager Degree apprenticeship, part time, while working. Eloise added: “I have had so many opportunities to understand different parts of the business, and to build my knowledge and skills, I always tell people it is the best decision I ever made.”