Two pupils from Richard Hale School Hertfordshire with deputy headmaster Steve Neate study the inner workings of Honda's NSX sports car as part of the IMI-developed motor vehicle Pre Apprentice programme.

The Honda Institute, Europe’s leading centre for technical training and personnel development, has thrown its weight behind a new nation-wide initiative to help improve career options for secondary school pupils interested in joining the motor industry.

Called the motor vehicle Pre-Apprenticeship programme, developed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the initiative allows students aged 14 to study vocational subjects alongside their GCSEs. A two-year programme, the Pre-Apprenticeship leads to a Level 1 Award certificate, exclusively awarded by the IMI, which enables successful candidates to ‘fast track’ onto a full Modern Apprenticeship at 16.

In conjunction with the IMI, Honda Institute has supplied protective clothing and safety footwear for 22 budding technicians at Richard Hale School in Hertfordshire, who have inundated the school with requests to enrol on the IMI Pre-Apprenticeship. The school will use its own technical training facilities in conjunction with the motor vehicle department at Epping Forest College, which is an IMI approved training centre.

At 14, students are given the opportunity to get hands-on experience of modern cars, working practices and a taste of real-world situations and working conditions. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get an idea of whether this kind of job is the right thing for you, and with such an early introduction, students will get a better start and make the right decisions, before leaving school at 16 and finding that they are not interested.

Car technology has developed so much in the last few years that the skills needed for effective vehicle maintenance and repair are more about diagnostic skills and data interpretation, than the more traditional view of grease and spanners. Technicians today have to be really switched-on.

"This unique programme will enable pupils to get a taste of industry in their formative years and give them a fast-track to becoming fully skilled," says Stuart Brooks, head of public relations at the IMI. "Over time, more positive perceptions of the motor industry will develop in the education system and, in the long term, the industry’s skills pool will be replenished. Well qualified technicians are in huge demand, often with attractive rewards for the best people, so it makes sense to start training from a younger age."

Pressures from all areas of manufacturing prompted the Government to introduce more flexibility into the curriculum, in a bid to address the real issues of a widening skills gap in many industries, including the motor trade, by forging closer links between schools and colleges of further education.

"The IMI Pre-Apprenticeship programme is great news for the industry, says Geoff Matthews, Head of the Honda Institute. "It fits with the existing apprentice schemes and allows people to get a head start in a career that has a real future. As a manufacturer we believe that the programme will also help recruit a new breed of inquisitive minds into the industry, we look forward to welcoming the fruits of the new scheme into our future apprentice programmes."

"Design and Technology has been on the decline nationally in recent years, this course is sure to turn the tide," says Steve Neate Deputy Headmaster at Richard Hale School. "We have been overwhelmed with the popularity of the option, this year we have squeezed 22 boys onto the course and I expect that number to double next year. We have a great cross-section of pupils including some of the school’s strongest science students. In the long term I can see this type of option being opened above and below year 10."

Published : 27/09/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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