Apprenticeship schemes are currently experiencing high demand across the country as one of the most hands-on ways to start or progress a career, with vehicle maintenance and repair being one of the most popular areas.

With over 120 years of experience in the automotive industry, the RAC currently run two levels of apprenticeships, with the aim of training and developing their Patrols. Running since 1987, the RAC provide a range of services across roadside assistance, insurance and financial sectors.

Their services include 1500 country-wide Patrols that attend to 2.8 million breakdowns per year. These span across their membership of over ten million, in addition to five million corporate customers. Each Patrol needs to be trained in 384 skills before they qualify. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through apprenticeship schemes. This system of training gives not only practical, on-the-job experience, but allows for theoretical study through partnerships with local Colleges.

Initially, an NVQ Level 2 in Vehicle Maintenance will be undertaken, with the opportunity to progress onto a Level 3. This two-year programme arms recruits with the same level of technical skills as a fully qualified Patrol.

This not only offers an excellent opportunity for those interested in starting a career with the RAC, but also allows those who are already qualified and working within the company to progress their career. This can be within a diverse range of roles, from generalist and professional to highly technical.

With many recent changes to automotive technology, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, specialist training, knowledge and qualifications allow for advanced insight around diagnostic techniques, auto electrics and engine management.

James Harmer, RAC Technical Trainer explains ‘We started the apprentice scheme in 2015 with Barking and Dagenham College. Five patrols qualified to Level 2 and one qualified to Level 3. We are now running a pilot program in affiliation with Brooksby Melton College in Leicestershire. This involves taking six patrols form around the country who are at Level 2 qualification and helping them to gain a Level 3 qualification. Two of these patrols have come from our original scheme.

‘Of the first apprentice scheme, six have continued their careers here with us as Patrols. As we are not just garage based, the skillset we require at RAC is quite different so there is a lot to learn. Not just technically but also around customer management to ensure that our Patrols are confident and equipped to deliver both sides of the service that we, and our customers, expect.’

The RAC has three main sites based in Walsall, Bristol and Manchester. It also runs specialist Training Centres across the country. The partnership with Brooksby College has provided the educational platform needed to accelerate the apprenticeship course. Mark Bendle, Acting Principle at Brooksby College added ‘We were really excited at the opportunity of working with RAC to not only develop this course, but to be part of further developing an already talented workforce.

‘The teams that have worked with us to design the course and carry out the observations and assessments are ex RAC Patrols so they really do have the skills, knowledge and understanding of what is needed to upskill the Patrols that are with us for this cohort. This course offers a great hands-on experience and close partnership working with RAC. We hope to build on this to see what further opportunity we could offer collaboratively in the future.’

Through the apprentice schemes, those local to the business are offered the opportunity to train in the industry along with studying and working within their local communities.
Alongside their own dedicated Orange Patrols, RAC also hold the contract with Mercedes Benz, providing the Roadside Assistance Programme to Mercedes customers. They do this through a dedicated team of technicians based across the country.

Nathan Pittuck joined RAC on the Level 2 apprentice scheme is an RAC Mercedes Specialist Technician. Nathan explains ‘I’ve been with the RAC for nearly a year now and I was put forward by my regional manager to progress to the NVQ Level 3 apprentice scheme. I originally started as a Mercedes Support Technician and jumped at the opportunity to progress when it came up.

‘When I’m on Patrol I’m based in and around Essex so there is quite a range of jobs to deal with. I’m really looking forward to gaining a broader knowledge of motor vehicles, how everything works along with a deeper insight into the electronics. It really is great to be able to do the work on the road and put what you learn in a classroom into practice in a ‘live’ scenario.

‘I get access to College and time to attend the course, along with being trained with RAC/Mercedes trainers in the workshop and on the road. One week I’m learning how to do it in the classroom and the next I’m out on the road putting it into practice.

‘I’d definitely encourage others to consider an apprentice scheme as a way to start or progress a career, especially in an industry or trade where the experience compliments the learning. By doing both you can really go far in your chosen field.’

To find out more about RAC, along with the current opportunities available, click here.

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