Autotech Academy has placed its first female intern. Here, Sophie Hemming highlights her journey into the automotive industry.
Sophie candidly admits that securing a vehicle technician role was frequently challenging in male-dominated garages. So much so that, despite a life-long love of motor cars, the 26-year-old put off taking her Level 3 in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair for several years.
After completing ‘A’ Levels at Pembrokeshire College in 2015, Sophie qualified with a Level 1 in Light Vehicle and Maintenance Repair and a Level 2 qualification in Motor Sports. She explained: “I have a passion for race cars and from a young age would help my dad fix up a long line of old vehicles. I knew early on that it was the career path for me.”
Moving to Southampton, Sophie was disillusioned with repeated rejections when trying to secure a vehicle technician role, stating: “I was either under qualified with a Level 2 or was frankly told that as a woman I wouldn’t fit in.” Because of this she found a role as a seamstress.
Being furloughed during the pandemic, Sophie quickly realised that her ambition to work within the automotive industry had not been quashed.
Signing up for a Level 3 at Eastleigh College, Sophie was also employed by the college as a Learning Support Assistant, teaching Level 1 and 2 automotive students. Teaching could have potentially been the default career for Sophie, had her course leader not mentioned the Autotech Academy internship programme.
Created to help thousands of students get a foothold on the automotive career ladder, and support employers when recruiting new talent, Autotech Academy provides qualified college leavers with a gateway into the industry through a paid internship.
Sophie commented: “Autotech Academy have been amazing. They took all the hard work out of the job seeking process, from finding a placement, providing me with tools and a uniform, and making the introductions. I just had to prove myself.”
Starting at Richmond ŠKODA, Botley, in early September, Sophie readily admits that she has, ‘landed on [her] feet.’ Working with the team, Sophie has put her theory to good practice, spending two days in her first two weeks shadowing each vehicle technician. At the start of the third week, she spent the morning working with the Master Technician who, after assessing her ability, gave Sophie her own ramp in the afternoon.
She said: “Since then, I have been working independently. The team here are great. I am continually given new tasks and am encouraged to ask questions if unsure. As a dealer garage, the work is timed, so it’s a fast way to learn to work efficiently and with confidence.”
Sophie’s Service Manager, Matt Savage, commented: “At Richmond we only want people with a can-do approach, and Sophie has demonstrated that with her commitment to succeed in a challenging industry. She has settled in well working within a great team and we know that our investment with Sophie through Autotech Academy will support our business moving forward. It is important that we encourage and support Sophie to continue her development and prove that success is about attitude and not anything else.”
Sophie concluded: “I am delighted to finally be in this position. At college I was considerably outnumbered, and there were only three other women on all of the automotive courses I took combined. However, the opportunities for women, even in the few years since I completed my Level 2 course, seem to have increased within the industry, and I would encourage any other woman, with a passion for motor vehicles or engineering, to follow her ambition.”
Gavin White, CEO of Autotech Group, added: “Sophie’s story is indicative of the gender imbalance within the automotive industry. A key objective when we launched Autotech Academy was to make a difference and help close this gap. Sophie’s achievement is testament to this as the Academy team have been instrumental in helping her make the transition from education to employment, and we hope she will be the first of many women to join the initiative.”