Are Apprenticeships The Right Fit For Your Accident Repair Business?
Hiring an apprentice is a big responsibility that can be mutually beneficial, but is it the right step for you and your body shop business?
Let’s find out.
Responsibilities When Employing Apprentices In The Accident Repair Industry
There are a whole host of forms and documents that need to be filled out and maintained when hiring an apprentice (which should not be overlooked). But we are not going to be focusing on the bureaucracy of the decision in this article (as it is clearly and accurately described by the government in their literature). Here we are going to talk about your responsibilities to the young person in question.
Hiring an apprentice for your body shop is similar to hiring a totally untrained regular employee in many respects. You will be expected to teach them the tools of your trade to the best of your ability. Different people will have different methodologies for how they accomplish this, but the main thing you need to consider is…
Can my accident repair business spare enough time to give the apprentice the skills they need?
Apprenticeships are a two-way street. As an employer, you will gain a valuable employee that has been hand trained to do things the way you like to do them. Apprentices often stay on and work for the company that trained them, so it’s a sound long-term investment in many cases. (We should note here that apprentices are not obliged to stay with their employer when their apprenticeship ends).
Your paint technician or body repair apprentice will be in this to gain knowledge and skills. They will want to learn the inner workings of your craft. They will want to learn everything, from automotive electrics, through to panel replacement, and even body structural realignment. They will ask lots of questions, and it is your responsibility as the employer to answer them.
Ensure that you (or whoever will be training the apprentice) has enough free time during their work day to cater to the inquisitive mind of the young person. If you are not going to be training them personally, ensure that the employee that will be doing the training is willing and capable of doing so.
Costs Associated With Taking On A Body Repair Apprentice
The amount of government funding you will receive to pay for the costs associated with hiring an apprentice depends upon the apprentice's age:
- Employers who hire apprentices aged between 16 – 18 years old are eligible for up to £15,000 or 100% of their training costs paid for by the government.
- Employers who hire apprentices aged between 19-24 years old are only eligible for their training costs to be partially funded.
As for salary, the amount you have to pay depends on various factors. We highly recommend you do your own research from official sources on this, but for the sake of this article, we have included some numbers below.
- Minimum salary for apprentices aged 19 or under £6330
- Minimum salary for apprentices aged over 19 in the first year of their apprenticeship - £6330
- After the first year, the minimum salary for apprentices over 19 is between £10,823 - £14,040 (dependent upon age)
Are apprenticeships the right move for my body shop business? What’s in it for me?
As you can see, the costs for hiring an apprentice are minimal – there are real and instant financial benefits to be had for your recruitment budget.
Many body shop owners who have not hired an apprentice before worry about how long it will take for them to become an asset to the team. It’s true that it might take a little while to train up an apprentice on some of the more skilled aspects of your trade. But while this is in progress, apprentices can often be a valuable asset to your team by performing entry-level tasks within a matter of days.
Aside from the financial benefits, you are also doing a great service to your country, industry and the young people who inhabit it. Without vehicle body repair employers offering these apprenticeship positions, we would have a massive shortage of people skilled in trades.
Deciding if hiring an apprentice is the right move for your business is a little bit more of a tricky question. It’s a decision that should be made on a case by case basis, and as such we could not possibly hope to comment on that in an article like this.
All we would say is that the benefits we mentioned above are real, tangible, and almost immediate. If you have the capability and desire to pass on your knowledge (while helping a young person pursue a career in your trade) then it’s a rewarding experience. It's also a sound business decision in the vast majority of cases, as you get a skilled worker trained to do things exactly how you like them done while keeping costs to a minimum.
Bolton College offers a range of qualifications for aspiring vehicle damage assessors, paint technicians, body fitter, or an all-round body repairer. Find out more about the body shop apprenticeship courses provided by Bolton College for additional inspiration:
- 81% of apprentice employers say they make their business more profitable
- 81% of consumers favour companies that employ apprentices
- 80% of apprentice employers say that apprenticeships will play a bigger part in their recruitment policy
- 81% of apprentice employers say they make their business more productive
- 75% of apprentice employers say the program has helped reduce recruitment costs
What Skills Will An Accident Repair Technician Apprentice Be Expected To Learn?
One of the most interesting and exciting things about accident repair technician apprenticeships is the wide range of skills the apprentice will be able to get their hands on. Ranging from the minor jobs like removing and refitting interior trims, through to more complex tasks like diagnosing and rectifying electrical faults.
There are various apprenticeships available whereby the trainee can learn numerous different skill sets, below is a very short list of just some of the skills the government thinks a competent level 3 Accident Repair Technician should be able to perform at the end of their apprenticeship:
- Remove all damaged & associated components from a vehicle.
- Re-assemble replacement or existing components to a vehicle.
- Identify and rectify vehicle body structural misalignment.
- Apply paint, primer and basecoat.
- Repair vehicles using thermal welding operations and processes.
Ok Sounds Good! I’m Interested, What’s Next?
Once you have made the decision to hire an apprentice for your body shop and have gone through the official government channels to set yourself up as a prospective employer – it's time to attract the talent.
Employing an apprentice is no different to employing a regular employee in many respects. You are going to have to sift through applications and conduct interviews with all kinds of people with all kinds of attitudes and abilities. Some will be incredible potential candidates that are motivated, and passionate about your trade, and others will not.
To ensure you get the best apprentice possible it really pays for you to put in a little bit of work to make your business stand out as an excellent prospective opportunity to the best candidates.
How to attract the best talent for my body shop?
There are numerous ways you can make your business look attractive to young people seeking out an accident repair technician apprenticeship. In the past, this was done using more traditional methods of marketing, but in today's day and age, you need to go where the apprentices hang out – social media.
Ensuring you have a well maintained and up to date Facebook page can be an excellent way to show any potential apprentice that you are a forward-looking organization embracing technology. Here are a few other tips to consider:
Write A Blog Post About Your Bodyshop
Write a blog post for your website aimed at potential apprentices. Tell them a little bit about your body shop, tell them about any previous apprenticeships (and their successes), and tell them why you are worthy of their consideration. Show some of your best before and after pictures of projects you have worked on. Show off your best welding, show images of people repainting panels, show the technical side of diagnosing electrical faults, show all the things you can that make the accident repair industry exciting for potential apprentices. Share this post frequently on your Facebook page (or even better make it a pinned post at the top).
Take A Team Photo Of All The Technicians
Take a happy, smiling, energetic photograph that shows you and your team in your best light. Try and look as welcoming and enthusiastic as possible to help calm nerves. For many young people, an apprenticeship will be their first time having a “proper job” and it can be daunting, to say the least. Share the photo on Facebook, maybe even have it as your cover photo, and be sure to set it as the featured image on the blog post we mentioned above.
Make Your Accident Repair Business A Fun Place To Work
Consider ways you could improve your business to make it more attractive to young people. Perhaps you could have innovative team building exercises that appeal to the younger generation. Perhaps you could have motivational competitions that provide the best employees with some kind of desirable reward. These ideas might not be suitable for all businesses, but the sky is the limit here. A quick google search can give you loads of simple and reasonably inexpensive ideas.
Advertise In Bodyshop Specific Trade Magazines
This is a more of an out of the box method, but it certainly produces results. Facebook advertising has transformed the way people think about digital marketing. It can be efficiently and cheaply put to use for attracting apprentices. Target your advertising to people of apprenticeship age, and cross target them with people who have liked automotive related pages. As little as £50 can get your company in front of thousands of young people interested in the automotive world – many of who will be considering an apprenticeship in the automotive industry.
Here's a few for inspiration:
I Found The Perfect Apprentice For My Bodyshop! How Do I Get The Most Of Of Him / Her?
As we just mentioned, an apprenticeship will often be the first experience of the workplace many young people have. If you are lucky enough to be young enough to remember how that felt, you will remember the nerves and fear that can come with the first few days on the job.
Right from the get-go, you should aim to make your body shop apprentice feel like one of the team. Introduce them around, give them a huge welcome when they arrive, and most importantly be there for them whenever they need it. They will have loads of questions they want to ask, and they will have even more that they don’t want to ask. Create a trusting, non-judgmental environment for them to allow them to nurture their curiosity which is essential to learning.
A happy apprentice that feels like one of the team from the start will be massively more productive and receptive than one that is just expected to introduce themselves around and fend for themselves from day one.
Mistakes can and do happen in the body shop, it’s the way all humans learn. We can guarantee that at some point the trainee vehicle body repair apprentice you hire will mess something up. Make your peace with that now, because it’s going to happen.
The key is to ensure that the mistake is handled correctly. Don’t scream and shout at them like you (might) do to an otherwise fully trained vehicle technician. Take them to one side (preferably in private to prevent embarrassment) and talk with them about what went wrong. Explain what they did, and explain what they should do next time. Offer to show them again in person (if appropriate) to ensure they have a full understanding of the knowledge you are trying to impart.
Mentoring new apprentices in the body shop
Many apprentices will feel too ashamed or scared to ask some questions they feel are “too easy” to ask. Some of them will have difficulty adjusting to the world of work, and some of them will just want an experienced vehicle repair mentor to talk to in private without causing a fuss.
Whatever their reasoning for needing an outlet, you should be their confidant and their helping hand. Schedule regular meetings (preferably daily for the first few weeks) at the end of the day to discuss how things went. Ask if they encountered any problems, see if they need anything clearing up, and just generally make sure they are ok.
Having a designated time for them to ask questions takes away much of the “stigma” attached to asking “stupid” questions. This results in a more competent apprentice, working harder, calmer, and most importantly, happier.
Hiring an apprentice for your body shop can be an exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience that makes sound business sense. If you feel like your workshop has the right mix of knowledge and passion for the collision repair industry then an apprentice could be just what you are looking for.
Colleges are constantly looking for new places to accept apprentices, so get in touch with your local college to find out more information.