Plant Operative Excellence!

Neve Hudson from Holt JCB featured us in their Sunday Social write up. Please take some time to read on…

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a site visit at ACOP, the Award-Winning Assessment Centre based in South Wales. Managing Director Sion Jones and Head Trainer Mike Smith, took time out of their business to share with me their passion for Plant Operative excellence.

Ahead of my Site Sunday visit, professional courtesy coupled with a thirst for knowledge, lured me to devour ACOP’s company profile. I knew ACOP to be an Assessment Centre which delivered CPCS plant training, NPORS plant training, testing and NVQ assessment on all categories of plant machinery and lifting operations. However, I soon realised I had completely underestimated the material available to me. Managing Director Sion Jones has written many insightful industry articles; market influences, machine reviews and Operative training insights. The article which also grabbed my attention was the humbling tribute Sion wrote of his father Peris Jones, who owned the highly reputed company Peris Jones Plant Hire. Which Sion respectfully observed his father manage and grow.

Sion and Mikes warm welcome was incredibly disarming. Their approachability a characteristic required for the multiple professional personas; this centre of Excellence demands of their team: Trainer/Assessor/Tester/Instructor.
Sion is proud to have worked within his family business, Peris Jones Plant Hire. Experiencing first hand Plant Operator engagement, afforded Sion the opportunity to consider future proofing an industry which is dependent on the skill set of a Plant Operator. Sion observing the respect skilled Operators rightly commanded. He was conscious of the potential skill gaps between “seat and leavers” and the costs these cause for businesses. It was during the 2008/2009 recession Sion utilised the support of the investments the Welsh Assembly Governments were offering through the React Scheme. This scheme was set up to support people to gain new skills and improve their chances of returning to work after becoming unemployed. This investment afforded Sion the ability to develop the Assessment centre into an effective training site, with a quarry in a short walkable distance. Sion constantly refers to himself as ‘being lucky’. ‘Lucky’ that there was a reinvestment programme available, and ‘lucky’ his family’s farm had a quarry and land that could be re-configured, to maximise machine functionalities. In many respects Sion is right, there has certainly been elements of luck. However, when one observes the portfolio Sion and his team have curated, fine tuning their Training and Assessment across the full plethora required within the Plant industry, it is in fact the Candidates attending ACOP who are the lucky ones.

For Mike it felt like a very natural progression to migrate from Operator to trainer, but he explains it wasn’t an easy transition. ‘I attended a lot of trainer courses to secure my skills as a trainer. Having worked as an Operator on multiple sites, I have first-hand experience of the Plant Operative role and skills required. I feel I can now give something back to an industry that has served me well.’

Sion’s dual role as Vice President and Regional Council for Wales for the Construction Plant-hire Association, gives him a platform of respectability within the Construction community. This is a platform he uses to deflect from himself, choosing to raise the profile, instead of the Plant industry as a whole. Showcasing the important role, we all have to play in maintaining and developing the construction industry.

ACOP ‘s fleet investment programme was an interesting discussion point. Their impressive varied fleet is like a grownups sweet shop, enabling Candidates the opportunity to utilise multiple plant machinery from Telehandlers to Cranes. Conscious that I am representing Holt JCB, I was excited to gain as much JCB product coverage as possible. Their JCB 535-125 Telehandler, JCB 131 Excavator, JCB 7T Hi Viz Dump Truck, JCB 110 Hydradig (Rubber Duck) and a new JCB 3CX Plus afforded plenty of scope. Sion and Mike are both enthusiastic about JCB Plant Machinery. As an Award-winning Assessment Centre their enthusiasm is a true product endorsement. Mike: “I was 3yrs old when my love affair with JCB began. My Father sat me in a JCB 3c Mark 2. The JCB Backhoe has put food on my plate for over 30years. I owe it a lot.”

The 180 and 360 CPCS courses are of natural interest to me. Before working for Holt JCB, I had never considered the various Certifications Operators need to gain, to Operate the different classes of Plant machinery. Marketing Holt JCB’s vast JCB Plant Machinery Range, JCB genuine Parts and our various service contracts, has until recently been my focus. However, when I visit Customers and a centre like this, I realise something else far more important. For the team at Holt JCB, it is not just about selling the “yellow metal” it is about respecting the Operator and understanding of our customer’s culture. The CPCS 180 Excavators course is symbolic of the JCB brand. Our Managing Director Andrew Shields ‘I am delighted and privileged for Holt JCB to be involved with ACOP Assessment Centre. Expanding and developing relationships with customers is part of Holt JCB’s culture. Whilst we had a long-standing relationship with Peris Jones, Sion has forged a centre of excellence based on his own credibility and business accruement. We have been delighted with the opportunity for our Team at Port Talbot to have developed a friendship with Sion watching the dramatic growth over the last 15 years. For him to also have the support of JCB HQ is a true testament to the authenticity of his desire to future proof the industry. Holt JCB are proud to be aligned with ACOP progressing relationships through the generations. Sion’s passion for developing and progressing the construction industry is testament to his business and personal attitude. I personally thank Sion for his commitment to JCB over many years and look froward to being part of the future for ACOP’s growth.’

What the JCB Backhoe resonates with my parents and grandparents’ generation is undisputable in brand awareness and product durability. JCB’s product development team work with Operators and Fleet owners to ensure that the JCB Backhoes status as a ‘site Swiss army knife’ is maintained. Working with their localised Dealers on a global scale, JCB continue to raise the profile of Plant Operators by respectfully ensuring the JCB Backhoe evolves to exceed the expectation of the Operator, and is as appealing to my generation as those that came before.

ACOP’s recent addition of the JCB 3CX Plus is a considered business decision. Mike strongly positions “Operators that start their careers with the CPCS 180 Excavator ticket, indisputably become the best Operators. Mike explains ‘My advice would always be to start with the 180 Excavator training. Through doing so, you are cementing ALL of the core Operator skill sets: Front Shovel, Varying Terrain, Excavating, Grading, Positioning, Efficiency and Planning work.’ Mike continues ‘I would strongly advise upskilling to the 360 CPCS Plant training. Additionally, if you have started your career with a 360 CPCS licence, upskilling to a 180, places you in a class of your own. It has never been so important to invest in personal training and development.’ Mike and Sion position with the correct training the JCB Backhoe still has a rightful place on site. It has a 24” heavy duty bucket with teeth, 40kph gearbox, powershift, auto smooth ride system, auto stabiliser and auto level to name some of the machine’s features.

It was an impressive sight to witness Sion and Mike in action, Mike was operating the JCB 3CX Plus giving a demonstration of the machine’s capabilities. Allowing me the opportunity to take some action photos and videos in ACOP’s quarry. It was staggering to see the JCB 3CX front loading capacity. Mike proficiently dug a symmetrical rectangular hole, refilling and grading. Demonstrating that the JCB 3CX is still the master of all jobs. Watching Mike drive the 3CX Plus around the quarry made me consider its roading capabilities and the ease that many of our customer have when driving to site, ready to go. As I glance around the quarry with the fleet selection before me, it resonates that this is the ideal assessment centre for plant operators to utilise if they are wanting to complete their conversion from a 360 to a 180. Sion, Mike and the team at ACOP understand the nuances of the models within this fleet. So are well placed to train, coach and advise machine operator wizardry.

I was incredibly proud that the conversation so naturally turned to the support ACOP feel they receive from Holt JCB Ltd their local dealer network. Sion and Mike speak warmly of David Lawrence our Port Talbot Depot Manager and his team. It is evident ACOP enjoy the company of our Master Tech Caerwyn who supports them with their service contracts. Their relationship with their local Territory Sales Manager Lyndon Roberts, is a relatively new relationship. Having worked with Lyndon’s predecessor Terry Skews since young men, and until Terry’s retirement. Lyndon respects Terrys were ‘big shoes to fill’ so I was thrilled to hear them championing Lyndon with evident respect and fondness. Lyndon has been keen to support Sion explore the latest JCB products. In return Lyndon has been grateful for the opportunity to use ACOP’s site for Holt JCB Demonstration Days. This business synergy also includes the support they have received from their local JCB Finance Relationship Manager, Llinos Froley. Sion is not at all guarded when discussing how Llinos’s reactive business support through Covid was a life line. Her honesty, transparency and ability to work with Sion to maximise his fleets investment for company security, is one he speaks of with humbling honesty.
I feel the heart of ACOPs success is Sion’s approachability and the Team he has around him. As an MD of a successful business Sion has an unexpected subtly about him. Through our conversation it was evident that empowering others is second nature to him. He listens with intent and is considered with how he articulates the evident need for continued training and development in the Plant Industry.

Marketing Holt JCB’s vast JCB Plant Machinery Range, JCB genuine Parts and our various service contracts has until recently been my focus. However, when I visit Customers and a centre like this, I realise something else far more important. For the team at Holt JCB, it is not just about selling the ‘yellow metal’ it is about respecting the Operator and understanding our customer’s culture. By working in synergy with our customers and understanding their business, enables us to support businesses throughout South Wales and the South West of England.
Candidates come to ACOP to earn their certification through full engagement, not attendance alone. Through Candidate profiling ACOP ensure that an honest initial conversation includes current skill levels, Candidates motivation and goals. This profiling enables ACOP to tailor courses to meet expectation that empowers positive outcome. ACOP are proud that Candidate/trainer/Machine ratio reflects the investment Candidates place financially in the time spent onsite. The opportunity to operate well maintained brand excellence, assists best possible outcome. ACOP boast a portfolio spanning National Companies invested in their employee’s personal development, through to the local Owner Operator renewing certification. ACOP’s accessibility from the M4 enables them to position themselves as a national assessment centre.

I feel I have barely scratched the surface with the portfolio of Plant Operator Excellence they have to offer. I look forward to returning to engage with their 180 CPCS Candidates. Thank you, Sion and Mike, you have ignited in me a true respect for personal growth. It has been an honour to spend time within an organically grown company, where their sole purpose is to future proof an industry that everyone is reliant on.

Neve Hudson | Digital Marketing Champion| : |

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