Bright future for Mansfield apprentice

Tim Novell, Dale general manager, with apprentice Heather Neale.
Tim Novell, Dale general manager, with apprentice Heather Neale.

The boss at a Mansfield area engineering firm says apprentices have brought them a wealth of home-grown talent for more than 20 years.

Dale (Mansfield) was set up in 1971, specialising in supplying equipment for the mining and engineering sectors.

With the decline of the mining industry, the New Houghton-based company diversified to making hydraulic cylinders, military handling equipment and machines for off-shore oil and construction industries.

One of its bigger projects has been making and maintaining ventilation systems for the Eurotunnel.

Tim Novell, Dale general manager, said: “As we began to supply for alternative industries and other countries, the need to employ apprentices made sense. We had an average age of 60 among workers on the production floor and knew we needed to fill the widening age gap.

“We’ve worked productively with West Nottinghamshire college – more recently through Vision Apprentices – and have two new apprentices a year join us.

“Lots of our staff now are original apprentices who have progressed.”

And it is not just engineering apprentices who are thriving.

Administrator and accounts assistant Heather Neale arrived in 2014 as a clerk, studying for a level-three diploma in business administration.

Heather said: “I first went to Dale for my school work experience and back then I knew I’d like to work for the company. I left school on the Friday and joined Dale on the Monday and began my apprenticeship.”

The 18-year-old’s role includes answering phones, putting invoices through the system, general administration and helping with queries, obtaining management signatures, producing sales orders and invoices and on top of this she runs the payroll system for the company’s 55 employees.

She also takes the opportunity to routinely visit workshop areas, ensuring she knows the business from top to bottom, helping her understand the products on order.

This is a quality which Tim admires in Heather, who is due to study an accounting certificate at the college.

He said: “For me, the benefits I’ve seen with working with apprentices are they will be the ones to ask the strange questions, those you wouldn’t ask yourself.

“It’s easy when you know the business, but for an apprentice joining the company for the first time they will ask you ‘why do we do that’.

“Those questions are good to hear because it gets us thinking differently.

“Watching an apprentice learn from the bottom-up ensures they learn the heart of the business and we’re always keen to encourage their development once they’ve found their confidence.

“Confidence breeds confidence and Heather is definitely someone who has really flourished since starting here.

“I give her more and more tasks because I know she’s capable and confident.

“At Dale we can spot that confidence in apprentices and reward that with offering progression. We pride ourselves on producing home-grown talent.”

Heather, from Pleasley, has found she enjoys working with figures and will be attending the college once a week to study accounting.

She said: “I’ve enjoyed doing the apprenticeship. I’ve learnt so much directly from the business as well as through the assignments. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I’m advising my friends to consider an apprenticeship.

“Now I know my strengths lie in accounts, I’m looking forward to studying and bringing fresh skills to Dale.”

Tim is very much an advocate for introducing fresh skills to the company and knows apprenticeships have brought the business up-to-date.

He said: “Since introducing apprentices to the workforce, we’ve gradually reduced the average age on the shop floor and it’s good to see we’re helping individuals progress within the business when some of our staff retire.

“I regularly speak at business breakfast meetings and I’m always vocal about the importance of apprenticeships in helping the business flourish and to grow confidence and skills in an individual.

“It really is the way forward.”

* Your Chad has teamed up with Vision West Nottinghamshire College and its recruitment arm Vision Apprentices to urge employers in Mansield and Ashield to take on an apprentice.

Our Vision for Jobs campaign aims to give more people the chance to gain the skills for a successful career while helping businesses build their future workforce.

If you think apprenticeships could beneit your business, call Vision Apprentices on 0800 121 8317 or email