From the moment 24-year-old Joshua Redfern joined Cartwright Group’s apprenticeship scheme in August 2012, his willingness to learn, positive attitude, creativity, strong work ethic and leadership potential shone through.
Initially, Redfern embarked on a basic engineering apprenticeship at the Altrincham-based trailer manufacturer with two-month rotations in each of the major manufacturing stages - fabrication, chassis build, body build and pre-delivery inspection. However, following excellent reports from managers and mentors he was fast-tracked into the design office in his second year where he flourished, showing initiative, creativity, dedication and commercial awareness.
He tells CM: “The initial stage of the apprenticeship was a great basis for understanding the production and manufacture of a trailer, working on products ranging from 3-tonne rigid vehicles to 13.6m tri-axle trailers. “I also managed to pick up knowledge of health and safety procedures early on. “I’m proud to be the first Cartwright apprentice who has been integrated into the company’s design team. The work is immensely interesting and rewarding.”
Having completed his four-year apprenticeship, Redfern joined the engineering team as a junior design engineer and one of his earliest initiatives was a suggestion to senior managers that he develop a build process manual for all future design apprentices. He also worked with a senior team member to develop a new trailer design incorporating environmentally friendly materials. During his time with the company, Redfern has been involved in ordering parts and assemblies, placing orders for externally sourced products and ensuring these reach the shop floor.
“Working in the close-knit design team has given me the opportunity to use my creativity and initiative and drive Cartwright’s designs forward,” he adds. “In fact the transition to the engineering department was a lot easier than leaving college and starting the apprenticeship in the first place.” Cartwright has developed a buddy scheme, which means apprentices team up with a skilled worker who acts as a mentor and passes on their experience and knowledge.
There is also now a “double buddy” system in place where a younger member of staff in the apprentice’s peer group provides additional help and support. Redfern says: “At each stage I’ve been encouraged to succeed and have accomplished all that I first anticipated and more. “Becoming a Cartwright apprentice is the best thing I have done - it was an easy decision at the time and it has turned out to be an excellent one.”
Redfern joined the company at a time when the company had just completed a complicated transition from 2D Autocad to 3D Solidworks. The welding, coachbuilding and fitting skills he gained early on meant he was able to help the design engineers with his fitment knowledge, product understanding and appreciation of how design affects the manufacturing and production process.
He has also been involved in developing the company’s ISO accreditation programme. “I like the fact Cartwright is a family business and that senior managers here have started out as apprentices and progressed within the company,” Redfern says. Redfern, who had no prior experience of, or family links to, the road transport industry, has given talks at schools and colleges to promote the company’s apprenticeship programme and encourage youngsters to follow his lead.
He concludes: “I’d recommend the apprenticeship route which has the obvious advantage of avoiding the tuition debt you would get from going to university on a full-time basis. “It will not suit everybody but if you find a company willing to invest in you, and you are committed, the apprenticeship route can be a great way of developing your career.”
Commercial Motor Awards judges remarked that Redfern is a “roll your sleeves up” kind of person and a very talented individual on both a creative and academic level. Senior management at Cartwright described him as truly outstanding with all-round abilities and leadership potential, adding that he “has a huge thirst for knowledge, soaks up information like a sponge” and has always gone “above and beyond”. Redfern says: “I’m absolutely delighted to have won the Commercial Motor Apprentice of the Year award, and I’d like to thank the many people at Cartwright who have helped me since I started.”
Joshua Redfern left sixth form at Lysander Sixth Form College in Warrington with an A-level in business studies and two National Diplomas (both distinctions), one in public service and the other in sports studies. He says: “I was initially uncertain of my career path but knew I didn’t want to go to university full-time. “I saw an advert for the Cartwright programme and applied. What attracted me was the natural progression throughout an apprenticeship and how it would teach me about all aspects of the business. “Right from the start I could see that the apprenticeship would help me to quickly mature, develop, progress and gain a wide range of knowledge.”
Redfern initially completed a BTEC Level 3 diploma in operation and maintenance with a double distinction, a Level 3 NVQ extended diploma in engineering technical support and an advanced level apprenticeship in engineering manufacture, studying part-time at Stockport College. He now combines his employment with part-time study - supported by Cartwright - for a BEng Honours degree in mechanical engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Redfern would also like to do a Master’s degree and pursue his ambition of becoming an engineering manager at Cartwright and a chartered engineer. “Getting the balance between the day-to-day job and study is challenging and it’s up to me to manage that balance properly, but I’m appreciative of the help I receive from work.” Cartwright recruited more than 30 apprentices in its latest intake and has now launched two new apprenticeship programmes in coatings and welding.