As any motor trade business will tell you the biggest challenge they are facing at present is finding good staff and this why providing an effective pathway for school leavers and other potential recruits to enter the automotive world is now more vital than ever.
One educational institution that is doing some exceptional work in this area is Plunket College of Further Education in Dublin. It offers a Motor Vehicle Pre Apprenticeship course and a Motor Vehicle Maintenance Course with full QQI Level 5 accreditation which are supported by City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) and SOLAS. These courses provide a valuable insight into vehicle mechanics, as well as a broad base of other knowledge and skills, and a key element is work experience placements in workshops.
Course Lecturer Robert Ledwith has been very active in developing industry links and believes the placements are very beneficial for both students and employers. He comments, “Students get a taste of life in a workshop and are better able to decide if vehicle maintenance is the right career path for them, while employers can get to know the student, perhaps with a view to offering them an apprenticeship or other opportunities.”
One employer that has been very impressed by the programme is BestDrive, the automotive maintenance and servicing network from Continental. Despite the challenging times the company has gone from strength to strength in recent years and currently has 31 branches with more openings in the coming months. This even includes two new branches opened during the pandemic. With a team of some 220 staff, training and education play a vital element in the organisation.
Marketing Director, Eddie Ryan says, “Our operation is based on meeting very high standards both technically and in customer service, so attracting the right type of staff and providing them with ongoing training is vital. We currently have 22 apprentices, but even once qualified we ensure skills and knowledge are kept up to date.”
To achieve this BestDrive has its own training centre with a master technician providing regular up-skilling courses, especially in developing areas such as EV and diagnostics. Eddie adds, “We have been working with Plunket College for a year and half and found the programme to be first class. The students we have worked with have all been very enthusiastic and displayed a great ability to learn, which allows them to make an active contribution to the workshop team.”
The most recent Plunket recruit has been Janet Jones who is on placement at the BestDrive Naas Road branch in Dublin. Janet spends 4 days in college and one in the workshop and finds the experience very rewarding. She comments, “I really enjoying my placement and find it a great help being able to put what I am learning into practice. I have been very impressed by the high standards and the advanced level of technology in the workshop. The staff have also been very welcoming and supportive.”
Janet says she would very much like to go onto a full apprenticeship, perhaps a sign that perceptions of the industry are starting to change. Eddie comments, “Hopefully students are starting to see the industry for the hi-tech, highly professional environment it is. For example, we have fully digitalised our workshop operations and are constantly striving to achieve the highest standards in everything we do. When potential new recruits experience this, it can often make them far more open to an automotive career path.”
Plunket College is always on the lookout for garages and CV workshops able to provide work experience. For more information on this and courses available, please contact Robert Ledwith at Plunket College of Further Education on 01-837-1689.