From education to employment

Edge Q&A: Regional Automotive Technology Hub (RATH) Development Programme

Over the past decade Edge has championed the importance and benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational education and training, seeking a closer alignment between education and the skill needs of the UK economy.

Edge encourages innovation in education by supporting the creation of new institutions that promote profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages for the UK economy. In addition Edge champions projects that will support the effective dissemination of best practice in vocational education and training and have the ability to support further development or replication. All the projects in the series have the potential to become beacons of excellence and exemplars of what can be achieved.

Name of project: Regional Automotive Technology Hub (RATH) Development Programme

Name of FE College: Blackburn College

Project lead name and email address: Ayub Moosa – Curriculum Area Manager – [email protected]

Location: Blackburn, Lancashire

Sector: Automotive

What are you doing?

The RATH Development Programme is a two year programme which works with employers across the automotive industry in the North West to offer students scholarships and create Master Technician roles. The Master Technicians are highly skilled employees from local dealerships who work with the College’s academic staff to develop and enhance curriculum, delivering specific practical sessions linked to their business practices.

In addition we are establishing an Independent Garage Network which provides local businesses with up to date information and news on developments, products, and services which are being developed within the sector.

We are also fostering links with a range of enterprises to support student progression into apprenticeships and employment.

Why is it different/innovative?

This is a new employer relationship model which brings the employer to the classroom not just as a one off guest speaker but over an academic year. There are regular classroom sessions enabling students to develop relationships with employers and gain additional practical and employability skills which will improve their chances of employment.

We recognise that small and medium sized enterprises make up a large proportion of the industry and so the Independent Garage Network which we have established is important. Not only does it support the skills development of local businesses but also showcases the potential of our students at network meetings.

Qualifications & skills learners acquire:

The students involved with this project will achieve one of the following qualifications:

  • Entry level, levels 1, 2 and 3 in Light Vehicle Working or Auto-Electrical
  • Apprenticeships in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair, Auto-Electrical and Mobile Electrical

In addition students will gain the following skills through the Master Technician sessions and scholarships with individual dealerships:

  • Customer service skills
  • An understanding of how specific dealerships work, for example the way Skoda operates will be different to the BMW method
  • Real work experience of the administration work undertaken and individual dealership processes and procedures
  • Experience of working on new cars under warranty control measures before they are released to the independent sector and connected cars (directly linked to the internet). This means the students have the skills needed to work on the cars within the independent sector
  • Learners will feel that they are part of the dealership network.

Who are your main partners & stakeholders?

The current main partners in the Programme are Simpsons Skoda, Chorley Nissan and Bowker BMW.

The project stakeholders are:

  • The current 312 Blackburn College students studying our range of Motor Vehicle qualifications and apprenticeships
  • Local motor vehicle businesses linked through the Independent Garage Network.

What are your ambitions for development?

The long term vision for the Regional Automotive Technology Hub is to create a satellite dealership outlet in partnership with a local company. The RATH would offer all the services of a larger dealership – sales, MOT and service – but this would be carried out by the students. This would offer students across a range of courses (not just Motor Vehicle) the opportunity to gain real, on-the-job experience.

Please tell us about any plans you have for dissemination of the model and how you are sharing best practise:

The development of the RATH employer partnership model is one which the College is keen to expand into other curriculum areas. Students from computing courses have sat in on Master Technician session in order to gain understanding of the technology and diagnostic computers used within the industry. The long term of vision of the creation of a satellite dealership will include additional subject areas, for example computing will maintain the technological equipment and business students will provide customer service and sales.

Employer engagement – how does this tie in to the local labour market?

The College is working with dealerships across the North West to support the development of curriculum and employability skills which they need. In addition the creation of the Independent Garage Network enables small businesses to link with students to communicate and support the development of local talent to suit their workforce needs.

What are the further learning and career path opportunities?

It is envisaged that scholarship students will move into apprenticeships. The scholarship will count as the day release element of the apprenticeship and as such in year one of the apprenticeship they can then stay in workplace for a full 5 days. In addition the experience and qualifications enables them to progress onto the HND Automotive course at Blackburn College.

Destinations of students following the course- please give any examples where possible:

The current destination profile of students is 80% move into employment within the independent sector and 20% university and further education. In the pilot of the scholarships, 1 student has already gained part-time employment with Harley Davidson, Preston. The remaining students are split 50% to university and 50% will seek employment.

What have been the greatest challenges of the project?

The greatest challenges have been the changing nature of the automotive industry in the current financial climate. This has meant that although dealerships were initially very keen to engage with us and participate in the programme, when it actually came to delivery there have been a number of issues in terms of the employers’ capacity and resources to support students. In particular staffing changes at two dealerships have meant that partnerships, priorities and commitments have also changed.

What do you see as the biggest achievements around the project?

Our biggest achievements are the placement of our pilot Scholarship students, the recruitment of Master Technicians and the signing of the Memorandums of Understanding. We have been in many negotiations with the dealerships to ensure that the placements are right for both the student and the dealership.

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