Gemma Westlake, Lecturer at Basingstoke College of Technology, wraps up this year’s series of Apprenticeship Answers by reflecting on the positive shift that has occurred this academic year.
We started our year in September, and it kicked off with five of our Level 3 learners securing apprenticeships within the first four weeks. Having watched these students working extremely hard during the pandemic, when securing industry placements was very difficult, I can’t tell you how incredible it is to see them now achieve their goals. Without a doubt, this is the best part of being a lecturer.
What’s more, we are now able to welcome guest speakers back to the college, something which has really lifted everyone’s spirits.
In the last instalment, I mentioned the importance of feeling supported and the need for career options to be much more varied from a young age. In education we constantly teach inclusivity and making everyone feel like they belong. This is something I have honestly always felt in the ‘trade’.
I have only ever worked with one person that genuinely felt like the trade was not a place for women and even he wasn’t rude or overwhelming about it, it was just what he thought, although I don’t think it would be voiced out loud these days. This has led me to reflect on just some of the amazing ladies I have met throughout my career.
When I started out as an apprentice, it was a huge deal being a woman in what was then an extremely male dominated industry. The first time I met another female trained technician was at an independent garage I worked at after my return from working in a Spanish garage. Her name was Tiff, she was a brilliant technician and wasn’t phased by anything. I remember on my first day being so impressed when she cracked straight into lifting the cylinder head out of a Corsa to replace the head gasket. That garage was great.
When I moved into teaching I met KT and we are still friends now. KT had studied and qualified in motorsport and was at that point teaching learners from the ages of 14-40 and over. She is now working as a technical trainer for a private company – very inspiring!
I have to mention Cat Trainer from Electude. She is a qualified technician and prides herself (rightly so) in being a positive role model and paving the way for more ladies in the automotive trade.
Although there have been quite a few more, I feel that I have to mention Hayley Pells, who owns and runs Avia Autos. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting her during a Schaeffler training/network day at BCOT. Hayley is a hugely knowledgeable and inspiring person to meet and she is always keen to take on new challenges. What’s more, she is also a contributor to PMM and has just released a book with Tom Denton!
So, the moral of the story is, if you run a garage and someone approaches you for an opportunity, please don’t discount them on face value – they might have a lot to offer your business! Join me next time where I cover how important the link between employers and colleges are and what you could do to help inspire young people!