Careers special: Machinery apprenticeship gives balance to learn and work

Since the age of 16, Robbie Gray, from Lanark, has been working for the Hamilton Ross Group while completing a Modern Apprenticeship through Scotland’s Rural College, with a focus on land-based engineering.

clock • 3 min read
Careers special: Machinery apprenticeship gives balance to learn and work

Since the age of 16, Robbie Gray, from Lanark, has been working for the Hamilton Ross Group while completing a Modern Apprenticeship through Scotlands Rural College, with a focus on land-based engineering.

Robbie, 19, has now progressed to working on mechanical and technical repairs for customers, as well as complex software packages that fine tune the performance of tractors and other machinery. And in order to build his skills further, he works part-time with a plant mechanic and drives tractors for an agricultural contractor.

Robbie said: I am really enjoying the apprenticeship. It is a great way of working, earning and learning. You get everything all in the one place you are out making a wage to fund your life and at the same time you are working towards a qualification and gaining skills.

I really enjoy the variation of different subjects at college. You get a good grounding on the topic you are studying, from practical classes rebuilding engines, to understanding how everything works through class work. If all goes well, I should finish my apprenticeship next year, which will be a great start to my career.

Having always had a keen interest in agriculture, Robbie has worked alongside his dad in the family transport and groundwork business and picked up valuable practical skills which demonstrate the importance of work experience as part of the learning process. Through the apprenticeship, he has been able to expand on what he learnt at home, building a firm foundation for the future.

As with many jobs in the farming sector, no two days are the same, and Robbie is relishing the challenge.

He said: I can do all sorts in a year, from fixing silage equipment in summer, to working on salt spreaders and slurry tankers in winter.

Each day is different and that is why I love my job. One day I could be servicing a telehandler out on the farm, the next I might be dealing with a breakdown at the side of the road. Some days I will be head down in the workshop getting a new machine ready for a customer every day is different, and every day is a challenge. It is perfect for me.

Keeping machinery in top condition is vital. When things break down, animals might not get fed and this has an impact on the food chain. Everything has a knock-on effect.

Agriculture has become a highly skilled job, with new technologies continually emerging to improve the efficiency of food production. From GPS-guided tractors that improve the precision of cultivation, to smart farming technologies that automate processes, the industry has undergone a technological revolution in recent years.

Robbie said: Tech plays an important role in our job. In the workshop we all have our own laptops, which we use to update a tractors internal software, such as changing settings to improve efficiency, or dealing with any technical issues a tractor may have. Gone are the days when farming was just a mechanical job it is more complex but I think that adds to the challenge and gives you new skills to learn.

  • Robbie won the Land-Based Learner of the Year Award at Lantra Scotlands ALBAS in March 2021. He gets to travel the country as one of Lantras Industry Champions, promoting the rural sector and speaking to young people about farming and engineering.

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