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One day at a time

Jun 06, 2012
A chat with Dan Start, Trainee Manager for Pickfords. By Steve Jordan.

Joining the removals industry was not top of Dan Start’s wish list when he was growing up.  But having his dad, Russell, as the boss of the UK’s largest moving company does, perhaps, make it more likely, if not inevitable that it would feature somewhere.

It had always been sport for Dan: basketball, cricket, golf, football … anything really.  Not being blessed with a natural talent as a player he set his focus on sports therapy. “Gary Lewin was my idol,” he told me, as if I should have the faintest idea who Mr. Lewin is.  Turns out he’s the Arsenal and England physio and young Dan was aiming high.

But it didn’t turn out that way.  After completing his A-levels, university was the obvious next step. “But I saw some of my friends leaving Loughborough with degrees in sports science and still being unable to get a job.  I decided to set some more realistic and achievable goals.”

Dan had done a little holiday work for TEAM when he was 16, which he hadn’t enjoyed much.  But despite that, he thought he’d give the moving game another try.  In June of last year, after some initial training at Pickfords in Milton Keynes, he started working at the company’s Cambridge depot as a move co-ordinator. 

“I was thrown in at the deep end a bit, but I guess that’s the best way to learn.  It was a small branch so I was able to have a go at every part of the business.  Everyone had to pitch in.”  The depot was handling two or three moves a day and Dan was the first point of contact for the customers and held their hand right through to the end.   

After a short stop back at Milton Keynes to learn a little about the operational side and a few weeks covering in Norwich, Dan, now 19, found himself at the new Barking office, run by Branch Manager Stuart Hulbert. His job was to work with colleague Paul Mordey to run the company’s new contract with Camden Council.  It’s not an easy job from anyone’s point of view.  The customers are all council tenants and many are in the process of being evicted. Dan said, “The jobs came in thick and fast and we had to do them within 48 hours. The packers did a fabulous job. They might have complained to us when they got back but when they were with the customers they just got on with it.”

Dan’s initial impression of the moving industry was that it was much bigger than he had expected.  “I didn’t expect there to be so many companies involved,” he admitted.  “Nor did I have any idea of the amount of detail you have to deal with.  One small mistake can ruin the whole day.” 

Of course it’s impossible for Dan to get away from the fact that he is the boss’s son.  “I know that I have been lucky to get this opportunity and I am determined to work hard to prove myself. I suppose some people will think that I am too young but I want to prove that I am prepared to learn every bit of the business from the ground up.”

As well as being prepared to work hard, Dan is also ambitious.  One day he would like to run his own depot and, perhaps, get the chance to travel. “I’d really like to go to New York,” he said.  “It’s the business capital of the world.”  He’s also pretty keen on checking out a few American football games too it appears.

But for now, he’s just concentrating on learning the ropes and doing the best job he can.  “I’ll take it one day at a time,” he said.  Now there’s the sportsman coming out in him!

Pickfords Apprenticeships

Pickfords has always been known in the moving industry as a company that provides excellent training facilities.  As part of this it is supporting the development of new talent with its apprenticeship scheme.

The scheme is a work-based training programme for young people aged between 16 and 24.  Apprenticeships are paid jobs which offer the chance to learn and gain nationally recognised qualifications whilst earning a wage. 

An apprenticeship is approximately 9 - 12 months involving about five hours per week for study - some done at work and some at home. The company says that it is currently supporting apprenticeships within the business areas of customer service, business & administration, and distribution & warehousing.

Apprentices are placed in a suitable department relevant to the NVQ (National Vocational Qualification, a nationally recognised, work-based qualification) they are working towards. When the period of the apprenticeship is complete the NVQ they have gained can then lead them on, if they wish, to further training at the next NVQ level.  They can then go on, if they wish, to a higher education course such as a Foundation Degree.

Apprentices are paid directly through the payroll, at an agreed rate, the same as any other employee. Since the scheme started in 2012, Pickfords has taken on four apprentices.

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