Gateshead College and Halfords Autocentres are driving forward a pioneering apprenticeship programme that's improving the region's automotive skills base.
Apprenticeships matter. Particularly to the automotive sector which for many years has been a powerhouse of the North East economy and will continue to be so in the future.
That’s why one of the country’s best-known vehicle servicing and repair firms, Halfords Autocentres, has teamed up with Gateshead College to kick-start an apprenticeship programme right here in the North East. Apprentices will spend two years learning their trade and at the end of the programme they’ll be qualified to the high standards set by the Institute of the Motor Vehicle Industry (IMI).
The programme is part of a wider plan by Halfords Autocentres to roll out a national apprenticeship with eight colleges around the country, with the aim of developing the next generation of motor vehicle service and maintenance technicians. Around 70 apprentices have enrolled, including eight in the North East where Gateshead College has been chosen to deliver the training.
Students will spend one day per week at the college’s Skills Academy for Automotive and Engineering and four days per week on the job at Halfords Autocentres around the region, where they’ll work with experienced mentors and be supported by the college’s work-based learning team. They’ll end up with all manner of useful skills, as well as knowledge of effective vehicle maintenance and diagnostics, customer service and hybrid technology.
Dave Nichols, Halfords’ apprenticeship and trainee relationship advisor, has first-hand experience of just how valuable an apprenticeship can be in fasttracking the careers of young people and the growth of local businesses. He started out as an apprentice and worked his way up the career ladder at Halfords Autocentres; now he’s responsible for developing new talent at the company.
He says: “I can personally say that our apprenticeships work. For this new programme, we’ll be training our apprentices to an industry-defined standard, ensuring we get the skills we need to make our business even more successful.
“Gateshead College was the ideal choice to deliver the training in the North East of England. What really stood out was their ability to quickly understand the needs of our business, and the challenges we face both now and in the future. This has given us confidence that the learning programme they’ve created for us will support our growth plans.
“Not only that, their track record, outstanding Ofsted rating and excellent facilities were all ticks in the box when we were choosing someone to partner with.”
By upskilling its workforce, Halfords Autocentres aims to cement its position as one of the country’s premier MOT, car service, brakes, repairs and tyre specialists. In recent years the company has expanded rapidly and now has more than 300 autocentres across the UK. Gateshead College has more than six decades’ experience of delivering high-quality apprenticeship programmes with large companies and SMEs.
The college is leading the way in education and skills by providing industry with the skilled workforces it needs now and in the future.
Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, says: “The automotive sector is changing rapidly and so too are the skills needed to support it; with more hybrid and electric vehicles on the road there’s a huge demand for skilled technicians who can service and repair them. “Halfords Autocentres are investing in apprenticeships now to secure the future of the business as their industry goes through the biggest change since the development of the engine. We’re really proud to be working with them in the North East to deliver this bespoke training and an amazing career opportunity for these apprentices.”