A day in the life of an award-winning John Deere apprentice

22 March 2022 Product Updates

Five years ago, James Skipper from Beeston in Norfolk took on a sales demonstrator role at Ben Burgess – one of the largest tractor dealerships in the UK.

Now, thanks to a pioneering training programme from John Deere, he has been crowned the company’s Ag Tech Apprentice of the Year.

I’m responsible for…

My job could be anything from a routine service on a mower costing a few hundred pounds, to a combine harvester that costs half a million pounds. To give an example of what I do, yesterday I was working on a state-of-the-art John Deere tractor. It was brought into the workshop because it was displaying an error code and I was able to thoroughly test the tractor for power by attaching it to our dynometer, which allows me to fully put the engine under load and simulate the tractor working in the field.

After connecting my laptop and carrying out various tests I was able to diagnose the problem quickly and rectify it with a replacement component that we had in stock. The next job will be working on a John Deere 7R that needs its first service. This is part of a routine maintenance programme.

My typical day…

My work is intrinsically linked to the farming calendar and varies so much. I can be doing anything from working on tractors to irrigators or combines, it all depends on the season. Today, I have an irrigator to service so that the machine is in tip-top condition for when the irrigation season starts. This involves dismantling all the working parts before dealing with the customer directly on what parts need replacing.

I expect I will be working with a lot of tractors later in the season because, as the spring arrives, tractors begin to do more work in the fields so need looking after. Then we will move on to combine harvesters that need to be serviced and made ready for this year’s harvest, which will start in late June or early July.

The best part of my job…

A stand-out moment for me was diagnosing and repairing an air conditioning unit.

I worked with my line manager to make sure I was put on specific jobs to help achieve my tasks and I needed to present video evidence of this task for the apprenticeship but I managed to do it and finish everything on the task sheet.

Working to solve customers’ machinery issues is very rewarding. I get a great sense of achievement in the tractor coming to me and then returning to the customer in working order again.

I love my job because…

No two days are the same and the variety is what I enjoy most about the job.

It’s definitely taught me to take a step back and really think about how everything works on the machine, and it’s given me confidence when diagnosing a problem.

Advice to others… (What advice would you give to others who want a role like yours?)

For the next generation of ag-tech enthusiasts, I am proof that the apprenticeship route can propel eager workers into the industry – and having an agricultural background is not the most important factor. It is something you can pick up. In fact, there are a couple of people here with no agricultural background at all, although many do come from farming families as they end up being the ones who have that interest.

If you’re really interested and willing to work, you’ll enjoy it. Ben Burgess is a really good place to work and they look after you really well. You do have fun too.

My Plan B… (If it wasn’t this job – what else would I be doing?)

My path into the machinery world started while studying Agriculture at Easton College, but there was a brief foray into the automotive side of mechanics. I was still always attracted to combining the two worlds of machinery and agriculture.

For more information on Apprenticeships at Ben Burgess CLICK HERE

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