Mercedes-Benz Dealer Northside Truck & Van has scooped a road transport industry ‘Oscar’ in recognition of its commitment to developing “the leaders of tomorrow”. The manufacturer’s representative for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire took the prestigious Apprenticeship of the Year title at the 2015 Motor Transport Awards.
More than 1,500 senior figures from across the sector were in the audience at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel as Northside’s After Sales Director Russ Hallowes stepped up to collect the trophy.
“This is fantastic recognition from our industry peers,” he declared. “We’re passionate about developing the potential of our young adults and launching them on successful and rewarding careers. After all, the future success of our business depends on the calibre of the young people we recruit, and the investments we make in providing them with the best possible training.”
Northside Truck & Van embarked three years ago on a Future Leaders review, which concluded that if it was to meet its ambitious growth targets it would have to commit significant additional resources to recruiting and training more technicians, parts and sales staff.
The company undertook a major overhaul of its established apprenticeship programme, introducing a series of innovations to support the block release training delivered at the Mercedes-Benz dedicated Training Academy in Milton Keynes.
These include a four-day induction for new joiners which involves meeting the management team and spending time in all departments; the provision of mentors; cross-discipline training to promote team working and integration; and the development of specialist modules such as fabrication, welding and hand fitting, which are delivered at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Every apprentice taken on by Northside since it launched the revamped programme has qualified for the extended training modules laid on by Mercedes-Benz for high-performers, while the Dealer has also introduced a fourth-year improver course covering HGV training, legislation, product courses and time spent with customers, to maximise career opportunities.
Following a successful trial period apprentice technicians now receive a Boxo Tool Kit worth more than £3,000, and the company also provides financial incentives by paying wages at 30% above the industry standard and contributing to a 10-year or 15-year monthly savings pot, allowing apprentices to earn a bonus of up to £21,600.
Northside reported pass rates of 100% and retention rates of 98% for all apprentices, results heralded by the MT Awards judges as “outstanding”. There had been an unprecedented 256 applications for 2014’s intake of 13 apprenticeships, while three of the six finalists in the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle Apprentice of the Year competition were from Northside – including Technical Apprentice of the Year winner Harry Atkinson.
With third-year trainees delivering some £80,000 in turnover, the judges concluded: “The scheme has very quickly trained apprentices to be productive. Northside’s was the stand-out entry in this category.”
Russ Hallowes added: “We’re proud of the fact that no fewer than 15 of the 52 former apprentices still employed by Northside Truck & Van have reached managerial or director level – I myself started here as a YTS trainee in 1984 and worked my way up through the business. This is crucial to our philosophy… whether they’re currently training as technicians, parts representatives or as sales executives specialising in trucks or vans, we’re confident that many of today’s apprentices will go on to become the company’s leaders of tomorrow.”
Northside Truck & Van is responsible for sales and after sales support of the award-winning Mercedes-Benz Truck and Van ranges, as well as FUSO Canter light trucks. It is also the reigning Mercedes-Benz Truck Dealer of the Year, while Directors Ben Sowersby and Leigh Margel hold the titles, respectively, of Truck Sales Manager and Van Sales Leader of the Year.
Northside Truck & Van has represented Mercedes-Benz in West and South Yorkshire since the 1970s. In 2012 the manufacturer rewarded the Dealer for its customer-focused success by greatly extending its area of responsibility to include North Lincolnshire, as well as East and North Yorkshire. Since then Northside has made a series of major capital investments, opening new facilities in Immingham and York, and undertaking extensive refurbishments across its other locations in Bradford, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield.
Three-pointed stars of the future: Northside Truck & Van’s latest crop of trainees, with their department heads and mentors
Off to a flyer: Harry Atkinson, 18, who works at Northside’s York branch, is the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle Technical Apprentice of the Year. He is pictured during the week-long stint he spent with the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ team, as part of his prize.