Locating qualified service technicians is an ongoing concern in Europe, just as it is in North America. I am aware of many of the apprenticeship programs that are currently on offer in the United States and Canada. However, I am reliably informed that these programs are not being embraced by workers as much as expected.
In the United Kingdom and Europe, the situation is somewhat different. Over the last couple of years, apprenticeships, which were popular in previous decades, have been started up again and they continue to gain renewed momentum.
While I attended the recent, U.K.-based National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) Conference, it was interesting to hear that an official, NTDA-endorsed Specialist Tyre Operative apprenticeship program is now in place. (The initial training sessions started in mid-November.)
The sessions are being managed by U.K.-based Remit Group, which for the past two decades has worked closely with many industrial authority sectors.
Dave Walker, project manager, automotive, at Remit Group was a speaker at the NTDA Conference. He explained that “over the past 10 to 20 years in Europe, the tire market has witnessed the greatest ever technology improvement momentum within the market.”
He added that historically, tire technicians have been viewed as being at the same level as technicians in various other business industries, “when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth, as replacing and fitting tires can be an extremely dangerous job and involves a very technical procedure, especially now that tire pressure monitoring systems are involved.“It is now generally accepted in Europe that changing tires is no longer a job for an ordinary garage mechanic and this is why a professional training schedule for tire technicians has been introduced.”
The new apprenticeship program, which includes a safety component, will run for a 15-month period. Each apprentice technician will be with Remit for five weeks during this time and will be periodically assessed during the remainder of the period.
Apprentices will be trained to carry out both scheduled tire maintenance and emergency response work in a wide variety of locations, including tire stores, public highways, construction sites, shipping docks, military facilities and airports.
Upon satisfactory conclusion of their apprenticeship, students will receive a nationally recognized qualification. “So far, 24 apprentices have signed up for the (program),” says Walker, “and we are currently in discussion with a number of other companies for the future.”
Remit Group is the first training provider to introduce this new Specialist Tyre Operative apprenticeship standard in partnership with leading employers in the industry and the NTDA, with the determined objective of “filling a significant training gap” and improving safety standards for depot-based and mobile tire technicians.
Apprentices will be expertly trained to carry out both scheduled tire maintenance and emergency response work in a wide variety of locations, including tire centers, public highways, motorways, construction sites, shipping docks, military facilities and airports. The training program incorporates an extensive focus on safety of the successful technicians while working.
Walker’s presentation was well received by NTDA delegates. Since the conference, I have spoken with a number of contacts in the market. Everyone whom I have contacted firmly believes this new tire apprenticeship program is a very positive move forward. In particular, it is believed that training technicians will particularly benefit mobile tire installers, who have to replace tires in very demanding and sometimes risky places on the side of the road.
In my opinion, having diploma-qualified tire technicians available throughout Europe will only further enhance the trust that drivers have in their local tire dealers. I will keep a close watch on the program’s development and intend to remain in touch with Remit Group and the NTDA to monitor its success. ■