The Power of Apprenticeships – How to close the Skills Gap.

March was the month we celebrated #NationalApprenticesWeek & showed off our West Lancashire College Trainees. These students are from the college’s Construction, Engineering & Logistics Centre in Skelmersdale.

Hills Apprentices March 2019.

Now undergoing regular training & mentoring these apprentices are becoming an integral part of the team.

What is the Skills Gap?

Our greatest threat to the UK body repair industry, is the current skills crisis.

According to Auto Body Projects/Trend Tracker, we’re running on empty!

In a recent survey (conducted by the above) in the ‘Future of the UK Car Body Repair Market 2019-2024’ report – we face some serious challenges.

“With an ageing technician demographic, combined with a lack of investment in technician training, recruiting & apprentices, we face a shortage of skilled staff throughout the sector. Compounding this is the Brexit effect whereby some of the skilled Eastern European technicians employed by many body shops, are choosing to return home.” – Mark Bull, director of Trend Tracker and author of the report.

The survey also shows a poor return on labour charge-out rates paid by motor insurers as the main reason for the industry losing skilled technicians to other sectors.

“A technician can cost around £19 per hour to employ, including NI, and we only receive an average £27.50 per charged hour, so when paying for customer-facing and support staff plus other overheads, it’s almost impossible to retain any profit.” – Mark.

And on top of that, body shop owners are having to invest more heavily as modern motor vehicles have become ever-more complex to repair!


It was great to supply the engines for the Greater Manchester Colleges Group – Engineering Competition at Wigan & Leigh College. (March 2019).

Why we need Apprentices…

“As Hills continues to grow, the need for a skilled and efficient workforce has grown at the same rapid pace, our unique process of handling ELV’S required a rethink when recruiting for new technicians, on approaching west Lancashire college they’ve helped tailor a training and recruitment package specifically for motor vehicle dismantling. We currently have five apprenticeships in place that are already harvesting green parts ready for reuse to the trade and general public.” – Marc Postlethwaite, Operations Manager, Hills Motors.

The survey isn’t all doom and gloom, with positive news on apprenticeships. 49.7% of the respondents stated they intend to take on apprentices over the next 12 month period, with a further 26.8% stating ‘maybe’ they will also.


Greater Manchester Colleges Group Students at Wigan & Leigh College.

And look at the effect it has…

“The opportunity Hills have given ourselves has enabled us to work on motor vehicles in “real time” giving us confidence and skills that could have taken years to experience in a college or repair shop environment.” – Aaron Mcloughlin, Hills Apprentice.

Mike Morson, Assistant Principal at West Lancashire College said “We are delighted that Hills are investing in and shaping their future workforce through the Apprenticeship route at West Lancashire College.  We look forward to supporting the five members of staff to develop their skillset over the coming months.”

Although there is still a long way to go in closing this gap, we’re pleased to be sharing best practise and plans to continue taking on more apprentices as we grow as a business.

To see our expansion plans, take a look at our February Blog.

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