As a nation, we seemed to decide in the 1990’s that practical skills were a thing of the past and everyone should get a University Degree. The Far East was going to make everything and we were going to buy it, our wealth created in services. Globalisation did indeed help remove the bulk of general manufacturing from our shores, but two stubborn areas in particular refused to go: High Tech and Old Tech. Brits have always been good at the former, the old planes, trains and automobiles we hold dear were actually the high tech of their age. The Old Tech retreated to the barns and sheds, carried on by specialists with a passion for their trade. If you wanted a magneto you had to know, or know someone who knew, Mike the magneto man. Carburettor rebuild? You need to contact SU Sue, call Mike and ask him to drop a note through her door…
These businesses, the very lifeblood of the historic movement, the people who grew up and breathed the mechanical age, are retiring or shuffling from their mortal coil. They were rarely big enough to support apprentices to whom they could pass their knowledge and I wonder if anyone would have turned up anyway, they were told the future wasn’t ‘practical skills’.
When C&B’s Alfie took an interest in Classic vehicle restoration in his teens, there seemed to be no courses available that could teach him the skills he wanted to learn. The route he took was to buy an MG and spend two years locked away, hermit like, in the garage restoring it, bolt by bolt. His grandfather and I passed on what we could, then books, magazines and the world wide web, filled the gaps.
Things are now taking a significant step in the right direction with the launch of the Heritage Skills Academy. C&B took a visit to their smart facilities at Bicester Heritage and met John Pitchforth, the man behind the new establishment with support from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.
Currently they have a course running in mechanics tailored to historic vehicles. For instance, they have a classic engine that is seized from years of standing, so the students task is to establish the best way of freeing it up with minimal damage. They learn how to accurately measure wear on components and establish if they can be reused or need remanufacture and of course how to rebuild sub-assemblies on a vehicle. Other planned courses include one on coachworks and another on trim.
If you know a youngster who would like a career in heritage vehicles of all kinds, they might like to consider the course, which are usually run as Apprenticeships, tied in to employment at a specialist so the pupil is earning as they’re learning.
If you are an education establishment, the Academy can visit and detail the benefits of a career in the sector. If you are an employer in the heritage transport field, the Academy can provide extensive support services, helping you to recruit the right young talent and providing block release training to develop their skills to meet your needs. If the apprentice is under 19 years old the only cost to the employer is travel and accommodation whilst at Bicester Heritage.
Interestingly, John related that they didn’t have a shortage of youngsters wanting to join the pioneer course, one of the main hurdles was their parents, who were indoctrinated with that ‘University is the only way’ ethos. Point out that an Apprenticeship almost guarantees a job at the end and the lightbulb springs on.
C&B wishes the Heritage Skills Academy the very best and intend to assist them wherever we can on their mission.
To view current vacancies go to: www.heritageskillsacademy.co.uk/career-vacancies
To apply, go to: www.heritageskillsacademy.co.uk
For general information email: firstname.lastname@example.org