Wherever goods are delivered - to factories, warehouses or docks - there's a fork-lift truck to manage the heavy lifting. In fact there are over half a million fork-lift trucks in daily use in the UK. Here's how you could get involved...
WHAT'S THE DEAL?
Like cars, fork lift trucks must be regularly serviced to ensure they work correctly and safely. Unlike a car though, most fork-lift servicing is done "on-site", which means engineers typically spend much of their day on the road, taking their mobile workshop to the customer. Trained fork-lift truck engineers are familiar with electrical and hydraulic systems, diesel, gas-powered engines and much more. It's not all spanners and oily rags either! Fork-lift engineers regularly use laptop or palmtop computers to diagnose problems or fine-tune fork-lift truck performance.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
The best route in is an apprenticeship, which is an "earn-while-you-learn" scheme, lasting three years. You'll get around £430 a month from day one. To gain a place on an apprenticeship, you'll need to be keen, ideally have 3 GCSEs at grade C or above, and be aged between 16 and 19 (although it is sometimes possible to include older students).
As an apprentice fork-lift truck engineer you'll learn valuable skills while meeting new people at your workplace and during your college time.
Currently, there are hundreds of Fork-Lift Truck Association member sites in the UK, from small businesses to international manufacturers, so chances are you'll find an employer very close by where your skills will command a good salary. By the time you've completed you apprenticeship, you should expect to earn around £17,000, often with attractive benefits.
WHERE WILL I WORK AND LEARN?
Day-to-day, you'll be working for a local reputable fork-lift truck company. The skills you learn there contribute to your NVQ level 3 qualification. Additionally, you'll be attending short (two-week) courses four times a year at a specialist college.
WHERE WILL IT TAKE ME?
This career path offers a lot of choice. You may prefer to stay on the technical side and progress to become a parts or service manager. Alternatively, you may prefer to transfer to the sales side. If you are really ambitious, you might even set up your own business. Almost every independent fork-lift dealership is owned by someone who began their working life as an apprentice engineer.
* Liam Gallagher of Oasis reportedly owns no less than four fork-lift trucks.
* A 4.3 metre thresher shark entangled in a fisherman's nets in Looe, Cornwall was recently hauled ashore by a fork-lift truck.
* According to medieval historian Dr Michael Jones, the English throne rightfully belongs to a fork-lift truck driver. The claim hinges on a theory that King Edward IV, who reigned from 1461 to 1483, was illegitimate. If true, the crown should have passed down through a line that ends with a 62-year-old Australian fork-lift operator, Michael Abney-Hastings.
* A toy fork-lift truck has joined Barbie on the list of the USA's top 18 toys. The Rokenbok RC fork lift comes with its own build-it-yourself warehouse stacking system.
* A fork-lift truck came to the rescue of a 3.6-tonne elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo in America. In a three-hour operation to help Tara when she got herself stuck in a pond, firefighters and handlers lifted the elephant with a tow truck, a crane and a fork-lift.
* A young black bear left its nature reserve in Wisconsin, USA and spent several hours both scaring and amusing the local community. After wildlife service officers had sedated the 140-pound animal with tranquilliser darts, the most convenient way of transporting it was... yes, by fork-lift truck.
...AND FORK-LIFT FRIGHTS!
* Talk about road rage! In America, a man tried to run over his neighbour in a fork-lift truck.
* A company in Basingstoke recently lost £200,000 of IT equipment when thieves used its own truck to smash the thick concrete wall of a vault.
* Don't try this at home! A drunk motorist in the Forest of Dean area avoided driving his car while under the influence... by trying to carry it home on a fork lift truck!
* A Norwegian gentleman had a rude shock when the portable toilet facilities he was using were hoisted into the air by a fork-lift driver who was clearing the toilets from the site.
If you're interested in fork-lift trucks, check out these websites to find out how to get in and how to get on.
Fork-Lift Truck Apprenticeships www.forktruckapprentice.org.uk
Fork-Lift Truck Association www.fork-truck.org.ukReuse content