Playing to your strengths
George Hinkley was named Scania UK’s Apprentice of the Year in 2022, and he shares with us his inspirational story about how his autism is the driving force behind his success.
28th November 2022
To be named Apprentice of the Year is an accolade anybody starting out their chosen career would love to have on their mantelpiece.
For this year’s winner, George Hinkley, it was further affirmation that he could turn his passion into more than just a viable career.
Becoming Scania UK’s Apprentice of the Year
George put in an impressive performance in front of the wider Scania UK team, as he blitzed the competition to claim the illustrious prize.
Aaron McGrath, Head of People Development at Scania, was not surprised by the overall result, as George’s talents were clear to see from the outset, adding:
“He is an absolute machine. When the four finalists arrived on the day, George was just running off facts and figures about the older vehicles. He is like an encyclopaedia for Scania.
“When it came to the tasks, he was head and shoulders above everyone else. If he’s interested in something, he wants to know every detail. He loves the brand, he loves his job. I’m excited to see how he does in the future.”
More recognition could be on the horizon, as George is also one of the finalists in the WorldSkills UK’s Heavy Vehicle Technology competition.
Turning a passion into a dream
For George, being crowned the winner has given him confidence that he is one of the best apprentices the UK has to offer. He says:
“I’ve shown I’m the best apprentice at Scania, now I look forward to see if I’m the best that the UK has to offer. Winning Apprentice of the Year has given me a boost and a bit more confidence going into the WorldSkills UK finals in November.”
George’s inspiration came predominantly from his father - an engineer by trade, who has a passion for tinkering with Land Rovers. It's clear from meeting this young man that he has diesel running through his veins.
From a young age, George found himself fixing vehicles alongside his father, especially the family’s array of beloved Land Rovers. It was fitting that he learnt to drive and pass his test in one of Solihull’s finest – a Land Rover Defender 110. A vehicle which he is currently restoring.
His interest began to peak. So much so, that during the school holidays he would often be found helping out at a local bus company. Not in the usual administration jobs, but down in the garage alongside the technicians, helping them diagnose and fix problems.
George’s love affair with Scania didn’t start until a friend introduced him to the brand via a truck simulator game.
“I’m half German,” he says. “Naturally I should have a strong allegiance to either Mercedes-Benz or MAN. But I love Scania. They’re amazing.
“For me it’s the heritage, the engineering and the quality of the products. Everything is so well thought out.”
When the time came for George to take his first meaningful step onto the career ladder – as an apprentice – there was only one brand which would do. Scania.
Turning a perceived disadvantage into a huge advantage
As passionate as George is about diagnosing and fixing vehicles, and diesel and steam engines, there’s another strength he has. One that he’s learned to harness. George explains about his autism and how he uses it to his advantage.
Fully understanding how his mind works and learning how to deal with certain situations from his time at school, has allowed him to focus his energies on his passions and strengths.
“I wouldn’t call my autism a disability,” he says. “In my case I would call it an advantage. It’s quite simple really, I’ve learnt to forget the negatives and focus on what I love. And for me that is fixing trucks.”
“Ever since secondary school I’ve just been addicted to researching technologies, such as the diesel cycle, different mechanical parts and discovering how it all works. When I discovered Scania’s technical information library a few months ago, I sat down and read all the manuals for 2 and 3 Series in one go. I can probably rebuild one from memory as I was sat there for three days just reading the manuals.
“It doesn’t bore me. Plus I now know how all our old technology works.”
With a voracious appetite for learning, George has a deep interest in steam, diesel, Scania vehicles and the technology and science behind how they work. Plus, how to fix them. He even has a budding interest in nuclear energy.
As future vocations go, he is clear there’s only one company for him – Scania. But while mechanically fixing trucks may be fine for today, he has loftier ambitions for the future.
“I love the company, but what I would like to do is to start restoring classic trucks or becoming an escalation technician as I enjoy diagnosing faults,” he says.
“If anything comes in with a fault, I find it no matter what it is. My brain works best on logic, which is why diagnosing is so easy. Because I can go step-by-step, figure it all out with logic.”
While George has a strong personality and willingness to succeed at what he loves, he acknowledges that others, who have similar conditions may not find it so easy to follow in his footsteps.
He also appreciates that some people find it harder to understand his autism which can make communication a bit awkward.
He only has one piece of advice:
“Forget what people say you can’t do and focus on the things you can do and enjoy doing.”
In my spare time
Alongside diagnosing and fixing trucks, buses, coaches and industrial engines, in his spare time, he continues his passions at home. Here are some of the projects George is working on:
Nuclear Physics – the desire to understand how different technologies work, George has a passion to take his understanding of physics to another dimension. A passion which started after researching the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
Restoring a Land Rover Defender – a vehicle which has played a major role in George’s life. It’s the car he learnt to drive and pass his driving test in, and now it’s receiving some much-needed TLC. He is completely restoring the vehicle. From repairing the chassis and replacing the engine to creating a custom wiring loom.
Model Scania truck – by having such an intimate knowledge of Scania’s vehicles new and old, George is keen to recreate an original Super vehicle – the LBS76 with a lifting tag axle, detail-by-detail. Which means designing a custom engine and gearbox as the original units couldn’t be scaled down accurately enough.
Model Steam Locomotive – with a passion for steam, George was keen to create a model steam locomotive. He has already made some initial drawings but with the Land Rover project taking up most of his spare time, this project is on hold for the time being.
Apprentice of the Year competition:
A competition not for the faint-hearted. A test of an apprentice’s mettle, capabilities and training.
From a class of 80 budding apprentices, only four handpicked contenders battle it out for the illustrious prize.
This year’s quartet Ben Woodbine from Purfleet, Kevin Latta from Eurocentral, Andrew Maddison from Doncaster and George Hinkley from South Mimms took on the set of practical and theoretical tests.
Each apprentice was challenged with diagnosing fuelling and electrical faults as well as setting the valve clearance on an industrial engine, plus a 50-question in-depth theory test.