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Apprenticeship case study – Fix Auto Maidstone

Joe Crawley - Multi-skilled Apprentice

Are you a perfectionist, prepared to work hard in return for first-class, craftsmanship skills for life? If the answer is yes, the AutoRaise Multi-skilled Technician Apprenticeship is for you, says Joe Crawley, apprentice at Fix Auto Maidstone.

Joe started his apprenticeship less than a year ago but has made phenomenal progress on the pioneering AutoRaise Multi-skilled Technician Standard and has set his sights on being the first to complete the two-year apprenticeship early.

Joe, a former business and finance student, saw the vacancy for a multi-skilled apprentice technician listed on the ‘Find an apprenticeship’ service – via – and decided to apply. Previously, working in a bodyshop had not been on Joe’s ‘radar’ but he liked the idea and after two interviews got the job.

Securing an apprenticeship at Fix Auto Maidstone has brought benefits to both Joe and his employer, who have since set a target for 40% home-grown talent within the business in five years.

Every Monday Joe hits the M25 to drive to Southgate College. After 11 months on programme, Joe has already completed 72% of the required evidence to complete his apprenticeship. How? Let’s ask Joe…

Q: If you had to describe the role in three words, what would you say?
A: Working really hard. It’s hard work, you have to put the work in to get the results and that means working really hard. The shop floor can seem intimidating at first so you need to be confident and be a useful part of the team.

Q: Advice for people considering a bodyshop apprentice?
A: You’re not a student – it’s not easy! Be prepared to work hard, have setbacks, learn a lot in a short space of time because bodyshops are busy and there is always work to do. At the end of the day I am knackered! Be a perfectionist and take pride in your work.

Q: What is the best thing about being an apprentice?
 Having the opportunity to really get good at something. This is a job with a lot of paths, and being Multi-skilled gives you a good insight into all areas of the bodyshop and every stage of a repair. The more skills I have, the more value I add and I like that. I feel like I have gone from knowing nothing to being able to prep and paint a whole repair by myself. That’s in 11 months and it’s given me more confidence and pushes me to learn more and become even more efficient.

Q: What were you most surprised to learn about the role?
A: The realisation of what’s involved in the repair of a vehicle. The steps, processes, there is so much to it. And the cost of materials was a big shock, too. £30 for primer. You mix up some paint and that’s £200. Anyone outside the bodyshop just doesn’t realise what goes into a repair, how much the materials cost and how much skill it takes! Also the importance of health and safety, equipment and process and rules, in the bodyshop its really important we take H&S seriously. And just how busy I always am. We are always busy; there’s always lots to do. I get home from work and I’m tired!

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Being a more valuable part of the team and gaining the skills in a short space of time. If I think back to when I first joined, when I didn’t know anything about repairing a car, to where I am now. Learning a lot in a short space of time is a great thing about being an apprentice. You can see how technicians become really efficient; if you’re working on similar types of vehicles and repairs some things become second nature. Although what’s great about working in a bodyshop, and being a multi-skilled apprentice and therefore moved around the business – is that you never know what’s around the corner! Some days, everything’s new. I enjoy that!

Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?
A: I see my future in the trade and can see a real opportunity to progress to management roles.

Q: What advice would you give to other apprentices?
A: Come back after knock-backs, it happens and you have to learn from mistakes – be prepared to keep going. You will gain more confidence and get more responsibility – that’s what I enjoy about it. Enjoy the competitiveness that you get in the bodyshop. I like the fact we work to ‘beat the job card’ and improve efficiency but always with a top quality repair at the end.

AutoRaise, working in conjunction with the Believe in Young People (BiYP) charity, offer a totally new concept to foster interest in our industry before students are ready to leave full time education. 13-15 year olds enrol with an affiliated vehicle repairer and commit to a programme of mentoring, industry-specific education, work experience and written assignments – called AutoRaise Cadets.

They are continually encouraged to pursue the path to an Apprenticeship so that, when they are ready to leave full time education, they will start their course already motivated, knowledgeable and with an understanding of the workplace and their employer. Fix Auto Maidstone are taking on three AutoRaise Cadets and plan to take on one or two Cadets each year to secure a future ‘bank’ of home-grown skills. Joe will play a key role in supporting and developing these cadets, said Robert Dearnaley, Managing Director 4 Elms Group (Fix Auto Maidstone).

“Having an apprentice of Joe’s calibre has reaffirmed and help us realise our time, investment and commitment to training,” said Robert. “Taking on an apprentice requires a firm belief in the future of the business and it’s not easy – you don’t often get a Joe! But we have always had apprentices, it’s important to us that we nurture home-grown talent and, with Joe, we have a proper apprentice ambassador who can provide peer support and encouragement to our future AutoRaise Cadets and apprentices.”

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