Time for an industry makeover

Skill Auto showcases the talent of tomorrow's master technicians

Published:  06 January, 2014

It seems that hardly a day goes by without apprenticeships being discussed in the news as the government tries to entice more young people into industries which form the lifeblood of our economy but struggle to attract fresh blood. Automotive manufacturing and engineering are being heavily promoted as an exciting proposition to teenagers by various bodies in the industry - engineering plays a starring role in our British heritage and is one of the areas we need to continue to thrive in if we are to pull ourselves out of this downturn.

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In November, I happily accepted an invite to the Skill Auto finals at the NEC to see some of the best young technicians from around the UK come together to show off their automotive skills in front of thousands of teenagers as part of the Skills Show. The competition is organised by the Institute of the Motor Industry and challenges automotive technicians who can be any age but must have no more than three years' experience, in one of three areas - Autopaint, Autobody and Autotech.

All six of the 2013 finalists in the Autotech section came from dealerships and faced six tasks covering braking, transmissions, suspension & steering, body electrical, engine mechanical and engine diagnostics. I met Damien Robinson, a 31 year old Honda apprentice, before he took on his final task of the day. He explained how years ago he had told his school's careers advisor that all he wanted to do was fix cars, they refused to look into it and told him it was a dead-end job. Fifteen years later, he has had the gratifying experience of telling them he is now among the top six in the country. Damien has enjoyed challenging himself and is keen to get more experience under his belt as he has been following the Top Technician competition and has set his sights on getting to the finals and beyond in the future.

A team of experts kept a watchful eye on the proceedings and skills competition manager David Massie was very impressed with the way in which the finalists approached the difficult tasks. "SkillAuto showcases the very best young talent within our industry and the standard is extremely high. The finalists demonstrated the highest levels of technical expertise under intense pressure and in my mind they all deserve to be winners. This is an important showcase for apprenticeships in the motor industry and I have no doubt that it has inspired a whole new generation to consider a career in our exciting sector."

BODY: A 3M paintshop and spraybooths were set up

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