The automotive aftermarket is increasingly tapping into temporary resources to cover shortages, making contracting a more popular career for vehicle technicians and MOT testers. We followed a temporary vehicle technician for a week to see what the role entails while dispelling common fears around freelancing in the motor trade.
While on a break between permanent roles, Chris Webb responded to Autotech Recruit’s advert for temporary vehicle technicians. Originally, the move was meant to fill a gap before he secured another role, but that was four years ago, and the 32-year-old hasn’t looked back.
“I sent my CV across to Autotech Recruit, and the very next day I was working.”
With past experience of working within dealer groups, Chris was put on Autotech Recruit’s Manufacturer Led Programme (MLP). Created to meet demand from car manufacturers to tap into contractors, MLP temporary vehicle technicians are trained to the specific brand standards at a manufacturer’s dedicated training facility and equipped with uniform to ensure a manufacturer’s professional requirements are maintained.
Through the program, Chris, from Somerset, has been trained with Volvo and takes positions within the manufacturer’s dealer network across the country: “I could choose to work closer to home, but while I have the flexibility in my home life to stay away if needed, I’m following the money and the demand. I generally find the cheapest, nicest Bed & Breakfast and I am compensated for the cost of this within my daily rate. I’m still around £300 better off each month.”
Monday - Tuesday
I’ve been working with Land Rover in Bristol for the past few weeks. After two MOT testers left the site, they needed urgent cover to cope with demand. I was purely working on the MOT ramp, testing up to nine vehicles a day to help them manage and clear the backlog.
As a temporary vehicle technician, you are largely working on routine vehicle maintenance, anything which isn’t engine or gearbox work, however, if you have received manufacturer training through MLP, the work sometimes can become more involved.
Walking into a garage as a temporary technician is never an issue. I’ve always been welcomed and can hit the ground running. It’s clear that garages today are relying on the services of contractors to cover both labour and skills gaps. Cars are increasingly technical, and technicians need ongoing training. In my last permanent position, I was in a small garage, and training was seen as a necessity but sending technicians off for even one day’s training would have resulted in a financial loss. As a contractor, I am responsible for my own upskilling and Autotech Recruit, through its training division, provides me with plenty of opportunities and subsidised courses, and this is the most skilled I have ever been. Working across different vehicles also keeps me agile and in demand.
Wednesday – Thursday
Autotech Recruit has asked me to transfer from Land Rover to work within a Volvo dealership. Another temporary vehicle technician takes my place within Land Rover.
Being trained on a manufacturer’s specific vehicle components enables me to work on more in-depth issues. Within Volvo, I have been servicing springs, shock absorbers, and brakes and, in the past, I have been called upon to work on manufacturer recalls.
On my first day, I serviced around seven vehicles, however on the second the vehicles required more complex work on brakes, tyres, and springs so I carried out five services.
I am at Autotech Training today, in their Milton Keynes headquarters, on an IMI Level 3 Hybrid and Electric Vehicle training course. The company has pledged to train its contractor network to a minimum IMI Level 2 Hybrid and Electric Vehicle, IMI standard, by the end of this year, and at Christmas, I received a gift voucher for the full amount of the Level 3 course.
Prior to attending the course, I undertook online training for Hybrid, PHEV & EV. While I was able to do this in my own time, this also gave me the essentials right through to the physics of EVs.
The EV training suite is the size of a classroom that easily fits a vehicle, tools, and diagnostic equipment, with space to work freely around the car. The teaching is split between classwork, and on the EV itself to apply the theoretical knowledge.
The Level 3 course focuses on in-depth diagnostic of the systems within an EV. For instance, most people won’t know that there are two different electric circuits inside an EV, a 12volt and a high voltage circuit. So, understanding the volts and amps we are testing and how to diagnose them correctly and safely is key to moving from Level 2 to Level 3. The course showed me how to read the information from the vehicle sensors and ECU to confidently ensure that the vehicle has been repaired correctly first time. Level 3 also includes being able to safely isolate the high voltage system from the rest of the vehicle, and correctly re-instate the high voltage system, and check its functioning using the diagnostic equipment. It also covers, in detail, how electrical circuits operate, and how the high voltage and low voltage circuits interact with each other.
Without doubt, this is the best job I’ve ever had. I have a far better work life balance, and I am in control of my own career. Obviously, as I have a mortgage and bills to pay, the initial concern was whether I would be working frequently enough to cover these costs. However, I have been inundated with work, and I don’t worry about where the next contract is coming from.