John Deere Technician of the Year Awards inaugural winner Caleb Dover reflects

John Deere offers a career path where the inaugural Tech Awards Parts Apprentice winner was able to change states and be promoted

Winning the inaugural Parts Apprentice of the Year for Australia and New Zealand in 2021, Caleb Dover is now thriving as Parts Manager at AFGRI in WA some 3,500km from his birthplace

As anticipation builds for this year’s fourth annual John Deere Technician of the Year Awards, Caleb Dover, the program’s inaugural Parts Apprentice of the Year has shared how winning the title facilitated his career growth and sparked a 3,500km cross-country journey.

Caleb’s calling to be a John Deere Parts Technician didn’t happen by chance. As a young boy, he visited Tasmania’s Ulverstone Show and saw the historic equipment on display, shaping his enthusiasm for restoring machinery and an appreciation of the importance of spare parts.

This interest inspired him to complete an apprenticeship with Midland Tractors in Latrobe TAS, an hour west of Launceston TAS, from where he was crowned John Deere’s Australian and New Zealand Parts Apprentice of the Year at the inaugural Awards in 2021.

Warmer climate bigger machinery

In July 2023, exactly one year after completing his apprenticeship, Caleb relocated from Tasmania to Western Australia’s wheatbelt region to take up the role of Parts Manager at the AFGRI Equipment dealership in Wongan Hills WA, north-east of Perth WA.

On top of adjusting to the warmer climate, Caleb also had to switch focus to different machinery parts given the broadacre cropping focus of the region.

“A lot of farmers here have big tractors and harvesters used in wheat and canola paddocks, which isn’t what I was used to in Tassie,” Caleb explained.

Caleb Dover (Centre) with his team at the AFGRI Equipment dealership in Western Australia where shown left to right are Genevieve (Gen) Norman, Savannah (Sav) Kilpatrick, Steven Robartson and Josie Dover

“It’s been a learning journey with the broadacre equipment, as well as seeing how cropping farmers operate and the demands it places on the machinery.”

Caleb enhanced his continual learning by completing training through John Deere University and said the opportunities within the company were endless.

He is now managing the parts department and a team of four, giving him more freedom to implement new ideas and make changes to help customers.

“I’ve always focused on finding new solutions for customers and this role allows me to do that,” Caleb added.

“I enjoy having some younger people to mentor and encourage them to give that high level of customer service.

“My journey shows how you can end up in a management role in a completely different part of the country than you started, because of the strong John Deere network,” Caleb concluded.

Emma Ford John Deere Australia and New Zealand Director of Aftermarket and Customer Support explains how the Technician of the Year Awards has become so popular over the past four years

Increase in nominations for 2024

More than 130 nominees have been put forward for this year’s event, a 30% increase from 2023, with finalists to be announced later this month across eight award categories.

Both an Australian and New Zealand winner will be crowned in the Ag & Turf Service Technician, Construction & Forestry Service Technician and Parts Technician of the Year categories, while the Service Apprentice and Parts Apprentice of the Year awards will be chosen from a combined pool from both countries.

John Deere Australia and New Zealand Director of Aftermarket and Customer Support, Emma Ford, said the Technician of the Year Awards had evolved over the past four years, including new criteria for contestants to raise the bar and to reflect the calibre of technicians.

“This year contestants will complete additional technical testing before they can move to the in-person testing at our Crestmead QLD head office, and they must also hit specific training targets,” Emma Ford explained.

“Continuous investment in building capabilities is key to what sets a John Deere technician apart, so it’s important our awards program assesses both the technicians’ technical skills and their commitment to ongoing training.

“We want to ensure our technicians are best equipped to meet the needs of our customers and John Deere’s ever-expanding portfolio of equipment.

“We’re incredibly proud to highlight the invaluable service they provide, and the role they play in helping industries and communities thrive,” Emma Ford concluded.

Just 21 years old and living in Sheffield TAS Caleb Dover earned the title of 2021 Australian and New Zealand John Deere Parts Apprentice of the Year at the inaugural John Deere Technician Awards

Award win career pinnacle

While he’s immensely proud of his progression within the John Deere network, Caleb said winning the inaugural award is still one of the highlights of his career.

“At the time, when I was an apprentice, it felt like the pinnacle of my career,” Caleb added.

“I care deeply about my customers, the John Deere brand, and making sure I always do my job to the absolute best of my ability, so winning the award and getting recognised for the care and effort I put in, felt like a vindication of all that work.

“To this day it still means a lot to me, and I look back on it as one of my proudest moments.

“Winning the award helped build trust, respect and a better relationship with our customers and it helped people understand that the service we offered was among the best in the country, and we had the certificate to prove it,” Caleb concluded.

Following the 2024 John Deere Technician of the Year Awards finalists’ announcement in late July, the finalists will prepare for testing at John Deere’s Australian headquarters in early September, with the gala dinner awards ceremony being held on 5 September 2024 in Brisbane QLD.