For 20 year old Lee Macintyre university was unappealing. The idea of big debts and a hard time getting a job to pay them off made little sense to him. But, when it came to finding an alternative to higher education, the pathways were not particularly clear. With a lifelong interest in motorcycles and cars Lee kept close tabs on apprenticeship programmes and, when an apprenticeship opportunity arose at Bedford Audi, he applied.
In 2015 Autotech Recruit, under its newly launched apprenticeship division, developed the specific recruitment and training plan as a pilot for Bedford Audi’s IMI apprenticeship programme. Under the programme Autotech Recruit pledged to sponsor two vehicle apprentices for three years and, following a series of interviews, the two positions were filled by Lee and 21 year old Jake Bartlett.
The apprenticeship programme not only offers a hands-on learning experience but culminates in a highly recognised IMI qualification. Now in their second year of the programme both Lee and Jake, who will become fully-qualified service technicians at the end of the three year course, are keen to emphasise the full breadth of learning that they are undertaking.
“Every day is varied,” comments Jake. “I like the fact that I get to work at all ends of the spectrum, from changing a turbo temperature sensor, to an oil service, or even carrying out an entire engine swap.”
Assigned to the apprentices from day one their mentors provide integral hands-on learning and, according to Jake, act as life guidance coaches to their protégés too! Each day the apprentices check their rack for jobs which have been delegated to them by the workshop controller. Under their keen-eyed mentors both Jake and Lee carry out their work which, both admit, teaches them more than college ever could. “College is good,” comments Lee, “but you learn so much more from the workplace.”
College is, in fact, Audi’s dedicated high-tech National Learning Centre in Milton Keynes. “It’s a fantastic facility and we get to work on brand new cars,” comments Lee. “Everyone goes there to learn about new software and vehicles; it’s a constant learning process for everyone in the group.”
So what does the future hold following the three years Jake and Lee are sponsored by Autotech Recruit? As Lee explains: “Once I have passed my IMI exams I will be a service technician and, following that, a qualified technician. From there I can move on to be a master technician or even go into management.”
Whilst the main draw to both was the Audi brand name, the chance to earn money while learning valuable skills and gaining a globally recognised qualification at the end of the programme was equally appealing – as was the rapidly changing landscape of the industry. “Cars are getting more and more advanced and keeping up with the technology could be a struggle, particularly if you are a technician who has left the trade for several years,” says Jake. “Cars today are incredibly precise and technical and it is a constant learning process. We keep up-to-date by using the most advanced technology, for instance Audi Cams where we record what we are doing for the customer. You need a mix of both mechanical and IT skills to work within this industry! The environment is great and with all the new cars coming in, like hybrids and electric cars, it’s constantly changing. With electric cars we have to manage the voltage which could be dangerous – but adding a bit of danger to your working day is exciting!”
This is an article has appeared in the IMI Magazine (June 2017 Issue).