While supporting students as they make the transition from college to employment, Autotech Academy also helps FE Colleges increase the percentage of work placements secured for students. Here, we talk to Sean Baker, Motor Vehicle Lecturer at Stamford College, on how Autotech Academy has benefited his students, and how the internship initiative is helping to increase new college applicants.
Autotech Academy: The first intern to ‘graduate’ through Autotech Academy and secure a permanent, automotive position was one of your students, Daniel Limach, who qualified with a Level 3 in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. How do you believe the Autotech Academy internship supported Daniel's ambitions?
Sean Baker: When Daniel was close to completing his Level 3 course, we had just formed the link with Autotech Academy, it was very early on in our partnership. I gave my group a presentation on how the internship initiative worked and asked them to all apply. The Autotech Academy team responded very quickly to the submissions and Daniel was contacted and given more information on the process and the Academy team clearly explained how the internship would work. He then went on to secure an internship with Marshall Peugeot Peterborough, where he now works permanently as a vehicle technician. It was clear from the outset that Autotech Academy were very pro-active with the students and the quickness of their response helped to both calm and reassure the students. They knew they had their best interests at heart and would support them as they made the transition into employment.
How was your experience working with Autotech Academy?
I have had a very positive experience working with Autotech Academy and have built some strong links with the team, which are being reinforced with every applicant we submit. Every time the Autotech Academy team have visited the college, the students have come to realise that the opportunities within the automotive industry do exist, and they can see that they have real career progression. Autotech Academy has changed the perception of how young people can enter the industry, and that gaining a Level 3 Diploma can lead to possible career opportunities. We now have a bigger number of students applying for Level 3 courses, more than ever in fact, and this is a direct result of the growing awareness of Autotech Academy and the internship initiative. I cannot understate the positive affect the link up has had for our students, and this has been highlighted with our new starters, that working to gain your qualification is now more worthwhile than ever. I have explained to the students that a placement is not guaranteed, but if they apply themselves, and show the right attitude, it is within their reach.
The skills shortage within the automotive industry is well documented. However, if reports are correct, thousands of students qualifying each year struggle to secure an automotive role. What are your thoughts on this?
I am fully aware of the national skills shortage in the Motor Industry and have used this as part of our recruitment for the courses. We have been explaining that this is a very skilled industry with a huge number of roles that young people can move into, once they have gained the underpinning knowledge and skills from the course we offer.
What do you think the main barriers are to automotive students getting into the motor sector once they qualify?
The main barriers for students entering the industry, in my opinion, is a lack of self-confidence coupled with the high expectations of employers for them to be productive in the workplace and carry out tasks to a high level. We have a simulated environment, whereas employers are looking for competent starters, and this is very daunting for newly qualified students to be put in the deep end in the workplace. With Autotech Academy’s internship, they are mentored which allows them to understand the expectations of their employer, increasing their skill set in the workplace while gaining in confidence in their ability.
It is important that the automotive industry is an appealing option to younger generations. From the number of automotive students that attend your college do you believe that the industry is still an appealing option to younger people?
The Motor Industry has always been perceived as a poor trade, due to its nature. But we now know that as vehicles have become more and more technologically advanced, and with the Hybrid/Electric era and onset of new fuel sources, it is even more attractive to the students, who realise that the industry is more appealing than ever for them.
If a college increases the percentage of work placements secured for students, will it help them draw down future funding?
While we do not receive any funding for industry placements secured, we are funded by the number of students who complete the courses. Initiatives such as Autotech Academy, which focuses on creating automotive employment opportunities for qualified students through internships, enhances our course offering and inspires students to complete their studies as they can see an end result.
Visit Autotech Academy and find out more how we could support your FE College.